Archive | December 2013

The Many Challenges of the Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

If you are a sales rep in the pharma market, 6 minutes may be as long as you get with your customer, often while standing on your feet. In a secret-shopper study done by BioPharma Alliance among 200 specialists, undercover former drug reps observed 350 pharmaceutical rep visits. From their observations, nine out of ten calls lasted 6 minutes and almost half were conducted while standing. According to the study, 83% of primary care physicians look for their rep to be an expert when the drug is new compared to 76% when the drug is already established. However, when doctors were asked about their frustrations in dealing with sales reps, topping the list was, “no new information.” Similarly, “pushy” and “aggressive” sales reps are also top annoyances.

According to Mike Luby, of consultancy BioPharma Advisors, “The biggest problem pharma has is admitting they have nothing new and adjusting their approach.” Luby goes onto say, “Consider the doctor who sees the rep waiting for them at the sample closet. They don’t know if it is new information, good science, a valued medical update waiting for them, or someone waiting to tackle them and pretend that they have something new on an old brand that hasn’t had any new information in years. So it burns doctors out. It also drags all reps down, because as a doctor, you don’t know until you are in the conversation, when you’ve invested time you will never get back.”

How to Prevent Surgical “No-Shows”

When patients don’t show up for their scheduled surgery, many costs are incurred that cannot be recouped, including the OR staff, the anesthesiology team, and equipment and medication that have been ordered. Reducing potential “no-shows” is imperative to maximize efficiencies. In addition to “no-shows,” reasons for cancelled surgeries to include scheduling errors, equipment problems, cancellations due to patient medical status, and emergency surgeries bumping medical procedures.
Key predictors of no-shows include prior missed appointments, history of alcoholism or other substance abuse and/or psychiatric issues. Measures can be taken to deter no-shows among patients from low-income background, such as scheduling appointments around public transportation times, educating patients on the benefits of the surgery, and eliminating the fear of uncomfortable procedures that seems to be higher in low-income patients.

The “Dirty Dozen” of Health IT

Marion K. Jenkins, an executive vice president at 3t Systems, an IT services company, cites 12 IT threats that healthcare providers should be aware of. By ignoring these threats he warns medical facilities could experience operational risk or breach of HIPAA regulations, which could result in fines of up to $1.5 million.

Jenkins’ list of red flags includes:

  • Unsupported unpatched operating systems
  • Antivirus/antimalware issues
  • Poor security authentication
  • Unsecured wireless networks
  • No data redundancy, backups
  • Portable media and laptop security
  • Poor user training
  • Out-of-date, out-of-warranty systems
  • Lack of employee computer use policies
  • Email scams, hoaxes, phishing
  • Inept/untrained IT support resources
  • Data on workstations, laptops

Editor’s Choice

The article, “Guiding Femoral Rotational Growth in an Animal Model” by Arami, et al. is an intriguing variation on the common applications of guided growth in pediatric patients.  Implants that bridge the physis to inhibit growth in a given anatomic location are widely used to correct angular deformity or leg-length differences in the growing child and to decrease the need for a more invasive corrective osteotomy.

At present, correction of rotational deformity in the pediatric femur or tibia requires a derotational osteotomy and commonly six weeks of casting postoperatively. This study in rabbits demonstrates the ability of implants to alter the rotational profile in the growing femur by bridging the physis in an oblique orientation, rather than in a vertical orientation used for angular deformity correction.

The authors have elegantly demonstrated histologically the swirling or bending appearance of the physeal columns in treated femora, while controls maintained the normal linear columnar appearance of the physis.  This interesting and unique animal study lays the foundation for consideration of using oblique placement of physeal-bridging implants to guide rotational growth in skeletally immature patients, without the need for osteotomy.

Google Glass is Now in Orthopaedics

Earlier this year, Dr. Christopher Kaeding became the first surgeon to use Google Glass during live surgery. He used the new technology to consult remotely with a colleague who, thanks to the head-mounted computer/camera, could see the procedure live from the surgeon’s point of view. Several students at The Ohio State University College of Medicine also watched the successful ACL surgery. Google Glass could conceivably give surgeons the ability to instantly call up radiographs, MRIs, and pathology reports during surgery, while giving a unique perspective of surgical procedures to others in remote locations. A thousand people in the U.S. have been chosen to test Google Glass as a part of Google’s Explorer Program.
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Runners Less Likely to Get Knee Arthritis

It may seem counterintuitive, but runners have a lower risk of knee orthoarthritis than walkers do. A July 2013 study followed more than 75,000 runners and 14,000 walkers and found that runners had a lower overall risk of developing arthritis than walkers. Runners generate greater knee forces than walkers, but due to the longer strides of running, the net result is less overall load on the runners’ knees than on walkers’ knees. Although running doesn’t decrease the cause of ‘wear’ on the knee, it seems better than walking for delaying development of osteoarthritis.
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How Big a Deal is This “New” Knee Ligament?

Belgian doctors have identified a “new” knee ligament in humans, although a French surgeon speculated on its existence as far back as 1879. The anterolateral ligament or ALL, is a narrow band of tissue originating at the lateral femoral epicondyle and traveling obliquely to the anterolateral aspect of the proximal tibia. Researchers think the ALL functions to stabilize the outer part of the knee and prevent it from collapsing inward. When people tear their ACL doctors presume that the ALL is also torn, and that its rupture and subsequent withering may have contributed to its obscurity. There’s still a lot to learn about the ALL as surgeons are now in the initial stages of planning and practicing surgical procedures for treating all tears.
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MedPAC Proposal Could Detract from Physician Employment by Hospitals

David Glaser, JD, alerts us to proposed changes in the healthcare reimbursement model that would make employing physicians less appealing for hospitals. MedPAC, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, issued a report that details a discrepancy between higher reimbursements for services rendered in hospitals relative to those for the same services provided in clinics. Simply put, more Medicare money is available to compensate physicians when they are in a hospital outpatient setting. This MedPAC report proposes an end to the added “facility fee” that drives the discrepancy by leveling reimbursements across the board in all settings. MedPAC recommendations are not binding, and Congress has the final say about Medicare reimbursements. But in Glaser’s opinion, “the days of additional facility fee payments are numbered.”
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The Changing Role of the Orthopaedic Surgeon

Top 10 OrthoBuzz for SurgeonsThis past fall, JBJS released the results of its annual survey of orthopaedic surgeons, “The Third Annual Role of the Orthopaedic Surgeon Study 2013.” Surgeons surveyed identified 10 ways that orthopaedic practices are changing. Other reported trends included a growth in services offered and staff employed. For example, respondents said they’ve hired more physician assistants, coding specialists, physical therapists, hospitalists, and nurse practitioners over the past 12 months. Also, more orthopaedic practices are adding x-ray, physical therapy, and MRI to their list of services.

Sunshine Act – The Continued Debate

On Oct. 28, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons joined other national and state physician organizations in signing a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing “serious concerns” about a key part of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. The more than 70 physician-organization signatories argued that medical textbooks, reprints of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, and abstracts should be excluded from the restrictions because these items directly benefit patients, although they may not be intended for direct use by patients. The Oct. 28 letter, which was spearheaded by the AMA and the Massachusetts Medical Society, says that the decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to not include these educational materials as exclusions in the regulation is “contrary to both the statute and congressional intent and will potentially harm patient care by impeding ongoing efforts to improve the quality of care through timely medical education.” The letter goes on to say that these items are “essential tools” that doctors use to stay informed of the latest developments. The letter further states that including these items in the Sunshine Act reduces the focus on quality patient care.