Medical device reps have been a presence in many surgical theaters for years. As COVID-19 either put a complete stop or at least restricted the frequency of elective procedures, medical device reps and hospitals have been tasked with connecting in different ways. A recent survey of medical device leaders conducted by ExplORer Surgical revealed that fewer than 20% of medical device reps have been able to cover cases in person as a result of hospital restrictions, company reservations regarding risk, or their own concern about exposure to COVID-19. In addition, more than 70% of the lifesciences reps report they are engaging in remote support of their customers via video or phone.
“We are seeing that since restrictions have loosened and elective procedures have resumed, reps are getting access to the OR. However, training is being reconfigured and implemented differently,” says Jennifer Fried, CEO of ExplORer Surgical, a company that provides remote audio and video communication between medical device reps and surgical theaters anywhere in the world. “Proctors aren’t flying to train new surgeons, they are doing it from their own homes or facilities using remote tools to give them visual access to the procedure. There are more virtual training events. Leadership is seeing that the amount they spent on training in the past was unnecessary and there are ways to be much more effective by implementing the right digital tools.” ExplORer Surgical also offers a cloud-based platform that allows medtech company reps to remotely join surgical teams, conduct remote demonstrations and generate intraoperative performance data.
COVID-19 has changed the dynamic between medical device reps and hospitals and healthcare providers. “It is a tale of 50 states and ever changing—each geography has its own set of evolving policies,” said Fried. “Access is no longer a given; it is a privilege, and it is limited to one person from each company (at most). Reps for complex procedures are being allowed in to support cases, but access for trainees is restricted.”
The survey also found that 92% of executives are concerned about training (new reps and surgeons) and whether they be able to get the tools and resources needed to the field that are required for their business to grow. In addition, “93% of executives felt hospital access and HCP interaction will never be the same as it was pre-COVID,” said Fried. More than 75% of respondents also feel that remote access and support is here to stay, and that it will be an integral part of their business model for the future.