Industry Trends On The Job

Medical Device Sales Reps May Be Pushed Out of the OR For Good. Here’s Why

Having a strong presence in the OR is crucial for medical device sales reps. It goes far beyond your ability to build relationships with surgeons. Being present during surgeries opens the door for product education and aiding in installation procedures.

Critics, however, claim the purpose of your OR attendance is solely based on improving relationships with doctors and increasing product sales. While this scrutiny isn’t new, there are new factors giving those critics power to remove you and other medical device sales reps from the OR.

It’s intimidating to think of a future where you have limited OR time or aren’t allowed in at all. But with the right information, you can step ahead of the changing trends. This puts the power into your hands, allowing you to advocate for your place and purpose in the OR.

Here are the factors that could get you kicked out of the OR:

Baby boomers are getting more surgeries — and it’s costing hospitals

Hip replacement surgeries in the United States more than doubled between 2000 and 2014, according to a CMS report. They shot up from 160,282 to 371,605 per year.

Today, replacement-type surgeries continue increasing at an exponential rate. The American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons noted in a report that total knee replacement surgeries are projected to grow 673 percent to 3.5 million procedures per year by 2030.

On the surface, an increase in surgeries seems like a pro for hospitals. But in 2016, the government-run Medicare program started changing how it pays hospitals for joint replacement surgeries. Rather than a traditional pay-per-cost system, they’re now running on a fixed-dollar amount for each surgery.

The increase in costs is causing hospital executives to look even closer at OR budgets, specifically the cost they’re paying for medical devices. Even worse for medical device sales reps, they’re considering if your presence in the OR is beneficial or if your attempts at selling newer, more expensive models are actually increasing their costs.

Safety concerns are on the rise

Some critics are skeptical about the fast-paced technological changes happening with various implants. Their fears are focused on product efficiency. Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a Georgetown University medical doctor, recently told Health Leaders Media she’s worried medical device sales reps are pushing the latest, most expensive products, rather than the most proven.

In some cases, this upselling has occurred in the room as surgeons prepare for operations. This doesn’t allow surgeons to take time to research the device or understand if it’s appropriate for their patient.

A medical center in Nashville has found a compromise. Medical device sales reps are allowed in the OR, but they’re there solely for consulting — no selling is allowed.

Executives know your earning potential — and they don’t like it

You know you’ve earned your paycheck — commission and all. Putting in long hours and dedication to helping customers and their patients are just two reasons medical device sales reps bring in an average total compensation of $152,250, according to our 2018 Medical Device Sales Salary Report.

Unfortunately, this impressive income doesn’t sit well with hospital executives. With budgets tightening due to Medicare policies and an increase in Baby Boomer surgeries, they’re looking for ways to cut costs on your end as well.

Medical device sales reps spending time in the OR, however, means creating a closer bond with surgeons. As a result, they’re afraid business decisions, specifically ones impacting the hospital’s financial status, are being made based on those relationships.

While it appears an uphill battle has commenced for medical device sales reps to clock hours in the OR, maintaining hard-earned relationships and their expert status, most OR doors still stand wide open to reps. To ensure these valuable opportunities to observe your product in practice continue, it’s important you consistently show your value in the operating room.

Rather than trying to make small talk or sales pitches during surgical procedures, keep your focus on explaining the medical devices, tool kits, and your experience in various ORs to assist surgeons in providing the best care for their patients.


Have you noticed changes in hospitals’ policies on medical device sales reps in the OR?

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