Life science reps are highly trained and are excited to share their wealth of knowledge regarding new medications, protocols, clinical trials, and more—but today’s medical practices typically struggle with how to tap into this resource without adding operational burden and cost.
By creating a life science rep policy, practices can streamline life science rep scheduling, set clear expectations, and take advantage of all that reps have to offer. Physicians and staff benefit from learning about cutting-edge medical technology and life-saving therapies, and patients benefit from educational materials and financial assistance programs— all while the practice runs more smoothly. This article offers ten questions to consider when drafting a life science rep policy for your practice.
It’s a question on every practice manager’s mind: How do we stay abreast of rapidly evolving drugs, medical devices, and patient assistance programs while focusing on quality patient care in the here and now? Medical journals and other peer resources are paramount; however, given the massive number of journal articles available— as well as the accelerating pace of change—physicians, nurses, and other staff don’t always have time to read and absorb all these materials. One very efficient way to stay current with critical treatment data is to invite life science reps into the practice when they have new data to discuss about the specific disease states and treatments in which they are highly trained.
WHY RESTRICTING REP ACCESS ISN’T THE ANSWER
Practices often take the step of closing their doors to life science reps when it feels too operationally burdensome to manage their community of reps manually. This reaction is understandable, because administrative staff often spend dozens of hours every month on managing reps—scheduling appointments, fielding rep calls, and trying to track down the right rep in a stack of outdated business cards. Practices also may shut their doors to reps because an individual rep is disruptive or disrespectful of the rules, and the practice does not have an effective mechanism to restrict access to just one bad apple, so to speak. Unfortunately, whatever the reason, practices that turn away reps also are turning away valuable educational interactions as well as critical financial and educational resources for patients.
EXTRACTING MAXIMUM EDUCATIONAL VALUE
Fortunately, practices have the power to tap into all of the value that reps provide without any of the hassle by taking one simple step: creating a life science rep policy.
A life science rep policy is important because it streamlines the process of rep scheduling and sets guidelines.
Medical practices have all kinds of policies—coding/ billing, HIPAA, electronic health record use, patient financial obligations, and more. As with any of these documents, a life science rep policy sets parameters, expectations, and limitations. It clearly states what type of information your practice wants and needs from reps—and how (and when) you want to receive it. A life science rep policy is important because it streamlines the process of rep scheduling. It also sets guidelines and does the following:
- Helps reps understand your practice’s requirements (i.e., why, when, and how you will permit visits);
- Prevents any individual reps from dominating the schedule or gaining undue influence based on a relationship with the right person at the front desk; and
- Prevents well-intentioned reps from interrupting workflow, allowing staff to stay focused on patient care.
TEN QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN DRAFTING A POLICY
Although life science rep policies may differ slightly from practice to practice, all rep policies should address the following critical questions:
- Why does your practice make time for reps? Do they add value? How do you define “value”? Some practices define value in terms of conversations about new drugs, services, or other therapies; new indications; new data, studies or research; new formulary coverage; new patient saving or assistance opportunities; and any other new and interesting information. Value also can be delivered in the form of answering billing related questions, providing relevant peer-reviewed journal articles, informing providers of relevant clinical trials, and supplying patient assistance information and other patient savings materials.
- What type of reps will you see? Life science reps can be experts on many different topics, but only a subset of them will add value to your specific practice. For example, are you looking for Pharma and biotech reps? Device reps? Lab reps? Service reps? All of the above? There are even subsets of reps within a type. Are your docs more interested in clinical trials, but your nurses really need hands-on product education? If so, you’ll need medical science liaisons and nurse educators. Do you have billing questions or want to help a patient afford their meds? If so, reimbursement specialists are likely to be your best resource.
- When will you see reps? For example, will you only see reps on certain days or at certain times of the day? Some practices also distinguish between larger educational in-services with many (clinical and/or administrative staff) versus short meetings when scheduling appointments.
- Will you see certain reps more than others? Practices may opt to provide greater access to the practice for reps who add more value and restrict access to reps who may not have products relevant to their staff at that time. Decide how often you will allow individual reps to visit. Once a month for sample drops? Once every six weeks for an in-service/lunches for your clinical staff? Once a year for presentations from medical science liaisons for your providers?
- How can reps schedule an appointment? For example, will you use a sign-up sheet at the front desk, or will you use software that allows reps to self-schedule appointments online during times the practice has designated as available and convenient?
- How will you ensure you get the information you need? Will you require reps to submit an agenda in advance so physicians and staff can decide whether they want to attend?
- Will you allow reps to bring food? If so, are there any dietary restrictions? Are reps prohibited from exceeding a “per person” cost per meal?
- Will you require reps to submit receipts? For example, will you want to validate any data that reps report under the Sunshine Act?
- How do you expect reps to behave while in the office? For example, are they allowed to have any contact with patients? Are they prohibited from entering certain areas of the practice? Where should they check in? Where should they park?
What are the consequences for reps who do not follow the policy? For example, will you provide an initial verbal warning? Will you temporarily or permanently ban a rep? At the end of your written policy, reiterate the idea that patient care is your number one priority and that physician and staff availability could change at any time. By creating a life science rep policy, practices can maximize the educational value that they are able to extract from their rep community, to the benefit of patient care and practice efficiency.
Founder and CEO
This article appeared in the Jul/Aug 2019 issue of The Journal of Medical Practice Management