The shutdown of surgery centers and cancellations of elective procedures in the Spring now feels like a distant memory. There are many centers that are nearing their 100% procedure volume. With the addition of many precautionary changes, centers are very much back to “business as usual”. But there’s still one group not back to the usual cadence of frequent on-site visits—medical sales reps.
Are reps out of centers for good? Should they be? If an on-site visit is ever necessary, what precautions does your center need to enforce?
No Mistaking the Value of Sales Reps On-Site Visits
Like full-time working from home, or many other changes prompted by COVID, the trend towards zero on-site visits with sales reps should not be here to stay. There is still unique value in face-to-face meetings with these reps for you and your staff—especially in educational circumstances.
1. Enforce a Critical and Educational Only Rule
Many American workers, especially those in large office environments and in metropolitan areas, are still remotely, and have adjusted to virtually conducting business. This is mind, there’s simply no urgent need to end remote communications and bring reps back on site. Pitching a sale, negotiating a contract, or communicating a new operational change are all examples of situations where you shouldn’t feel guilty about saying “No” to the request to visit you and your staff on-site.
Unlike these instances conducive to a virtual discussion, the critical needs for procedural efficiency when products aren’t working or for Continuing Education credits for your staff are times when an on-site visit is needed.
Before agreeing to an on-site meeting, consider if the answer is “Yes” to at least one of these questions:
- Is this visit critical to maintain procedure volume and deliver patient care?
- Is this visit for my staff to receive critical product training or CE credits?
2. Establish Clearly-Defined Protocol
Once you’ve determined the critical nature of the on-site visit, you may still have remaining questions about what to require of this visitor who is not a patient or a regular staff member:
Do they need to provide a negative COVID test? Supply their own PPE? Will they be patient-facing throughout the day?
AdvaMed, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, partnered with the American Hospital Association and the Association of perioperative Registered Nurses to develop their recommendations for medical device sales representatives regaining access to healthcare facilities. While facility policies should follow local guidelines and may fluctuate depending on COVID-19 incidences, there are some general protocol recommendations:
- Reps should be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 in the same way as staff, patients, and patient visitors.
- Testing of asymptomatic reps is generally not recommended in order to preserve tests but should be consistent with local guidance.
- Facilities should provide personal protective equipment to all representatives deemed essential to surgical or invasive procedures, in order to have quality control over the PPE. Facilities may require the reps to provide their own PPE if the facility is operating at a crisis level.
- If the reps are on-site, but not in surgical nor invasive procedures, they should supply their own PPE to the level of other non-patient-facing facility staff.
3. Take Advantage of New Remote Capabilities
A critical issue that once required an on-site visit may very well now be conducted virtually—if you ask. The standard procedure for troubleshooting a device, giving a new product demonstration, or teaching a CE course may still be in person but many companies have instructed their sales reps to be open to converting these types of presentations to a virtual format. They may not have a clear-cut virtual format. However, they will certainly try to adjust to your facility needs if the limitation of in-person visits is still important to your facility. For example, FaceTime-ing with your rep when equipment is giving you trouble during a room set-up is certainly not the normal procedure for them. But, these aren’t normal times, and sometimes surprisingly convenient assistance is actually at your fingertips.