A comprehensive rep policy benefits all-especially patients

June 13, 2018

Every practice should have these 9 elements as a part of their guidelines for meeting with industry reps.

When was the last time an industry rep provided your practice with timely information about new therapies and standards-of-care without disrupting your workflow? Many practices struggle not only with identifying knowledgeable reps but also devising efficient strategies to incorporate these reps into their already-demanding schedules.

What ends up happening is that reps show up unannounced, oftentimes asking to speak directly with physicians who are busy seeing patients. Poorly-timed rep visits can disrupt a practice’s workflow, taking administrative staff time away from patient-focused tasks.

Is there a solution to this industry-wide dilemma? Yes, and it’s one that requires minimal time and effort. Create a policy for your life sciences reps.

Creating this type of policy ensures that everyone-physicians, staff members, and reps-are on the same page when it comes to scheduling educational sessions. A policy supports operational efficiency and helps practices maximize educational opportunities because it lets reps know what information you need, when you need it, and how frequently they can access physicians and clinical staff. It helps set parameters, expectations, and limitations.

Every life sciences rep policy should address the following:

1. The type of reps you will see. For example, will you allow all life sciences reps? Only those representing drugs and biotechnology or devices? Only Medical Science Liaisons who are physicians or nurses?

2. The specific days/times you will see reps. Will you only see them on certain days or at certain times of the day? Consider creating role-based calendars for clinical vs. nonclinical staff so people only hear information that’s relevant to their jobs. Also create a separate calendar for shorter appointments when reps can restock samples, co-pay cards, patient education materials, and obtain physician signatures.

3. Why you see reps. Life science companies are developing technology, and like all technology in the world today, it’s changing at an explosive pace. Even the most brilliant doctors have difficulty staying abreast of it all. The good news is that knowledgeable reps can highlight new information-new products, new indications, and new FDA-approved data or research. Reps also provide important information about new patient assistance programs, formulary coverage, and co-pay cards. Take the time to define ‘new,’ and what it means to your practice, and craft a policy that prioritizes visits with reps who have something new to say.

4. How reps can make an appointment. Manual scheduling can be time-consuming for your practice staff. Consider automated solutions that let reps self-schedule appointments during time slots that your practice designates as available and convenient.

5. Rep frequency. How often will you allow individual reps to visit? How does the supply of your physician’s time compare with reps’ demand for it? Setting-and enforcing-the correct frequency rules helps distribute appointments fairly while ensuring that those reps with new information are able to disseminate it in a timely fashion.

6. Rep requirements. Having an agenda makes all meetings more efficient, and rep in-services should be no different. Ask reps to submit topics in advance so physicians can make informed decisions as to whether they want to attend. The agenda also helps avoid redundant conversations.

7. Whether you will allow food. Slowing down for lunches is a luxury for most physicians. Decide whether you’re able to allow reps in at this time or if you prefer to schedule quick meetings with no meal involved. 

8. Code of conduct. How do you expect reps to behave in your practice so they don’t interrupt staff? Will you require reps to sign documents (e.g., a HIPAA policy)? What are the consequences if they don’t follow the rules, and how will you enforce them? Identify a strategy to isolate reps who don’t follow the policy so you can continue to see the reps who play by the rules.

9. Sunshine Act tracking. Although practices are not required to record or report any data, you may want to record any transfer of value that occurs so you can validate the data and contest any errors during the annual review period. If this is of interest, your policy should require reps to leave a copy of the receipt and their sign-in sheet for each meal.

Taking the time to create a life sciences rep policy-and implementing tools to automate the scheduling-can help save practices considerable administrative hours per year while maximizing the educational value of rep visits all to the benefit of patient care.

Dan Gilman is founder and CEO of RxVantage,a free, cloud-based solution that connects physicians and medical staff members with reps who have the most relevant information, enabling practices to continue receiving in-person education with minimal time and effort.