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The Integral Role of Medical Device Sales Representatives in the Operating Room

Updated: Jan 11



Breaking Into Medical Device Sales

December 27, 2023

MDSI Article: 004


Medical device sales is a fascinating sector. It intersects healthcare, business, and technology, and plays a vital role in the surgical process. Let's explore this interesting realm, focusing on its unique aspects, ethical considerations, and the significant role it plays in the operating room.



Part I: The Fundamentals of Medical Device Sales


A. Understanding the Basics of Orthopedics

Orthopedics is the medical branch focused on the musculoskeletal system, which comprises bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. A medical device sales representative, specializing in orthopedic products, must comprehend basic orthopedic anatomy and terminology, which is essential for effective communication with the medical team and customers.


The adult human skeleton consists of 206 bones, which are susceptible to various disorders. These include osteoarthritis, orthopedic deformities, fractures, and conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis. Understanding these conditions is crucial for a sales representative as they directly relate to the products being sold.


B. Bone Healing and Fixation Fundamentals

A medical device sales representative also needs to understand the bone healing process. This process involves three stages: the inflammatory stage, the reparative stage, and the remodeling stage. Depending on the nature of the fracture and the patient's health, a bone might heal with a simple cast or require more complex interventions like surgery.


Fracture fixation is one such surgical intervention technique. It stabilizes the injured bone, accelerating the healing process and reducing complications. The fixation can be external or internal, depending on the fracture's location, severity, and bone quality.


Part II: The Role of Medical Device Sales Representatives in the Operating Room


Medical device sales tools and instrumentation
Surgical Tools & Instrumentation

A. Presence in the Operating Room

It might surprise many that medical device sales representatives often have a presence in the operating room. They are there to offer technical expertise during surgery, especially during complex orthopedic, spinal, or cardiac procedures. The medical device industry, which accounts for $150 billion in annual sales in the U.S., often includes the presence of device reps in the operating room as part of the sales package.


B. The Ethical Dilemma

The presence of sales reps in the operating room raises several ethical and practical questions. These include potential influence on surgeons' decisions, violation of informed consent, additional costs, and potential violation of HIPAA regulations.


The debate continues, with some advocating for the removal of sales reps from the OR, citing ethical, safety, and cost issues. Others, however, defend their role, asserting their technical expertise is beneficial and often preferred by the surgeons.


Part III: Making the Case: Sales Representatives in the Surgical Suite


Benefits of Having Sales Representatives in the Surgical Suite

Despite the ethical concerns, certain advantages come with having sales reps in the surgical suite. They offer surgeons a safer surgical experience by providing insight into the device's technical and functional aspects.

Additionally, their presence can help build stronger customer relations by identifying pain points and understanding each surgeon's unique approach.


Despite the ongoing debate, one thing is clear: medical device sales representatives need to expand their skills to thrive in the ever-evolving medical field. They need to provide significant value outside of the OR and adopt non-traditional selling strategies to ensure their relevance in the industry.

Medical device sales is a dynamic and essential sector in healthcare. With the right training, ethical considerations, and a clear understanding of their role, medical device sales representatives can significantly contribute to the medical field and patient care.


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