Monday, August 17, 2009

Ford Kicks Reps Out of the Driver’s Seat

Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk of Michigan’s Henry Ford Health System, “shook up the relationship with sales representatives when she helped implement a program requiring certification of pharmaceutical sales reps that also “banned gifts, free drug samples and free food from the system's seven hospitals and 27 medical centers.”

The Henry Ford Health System is one of the first organizations to have implemented such a program.

Dr. Yaremchuk calls it “our influence-free policy.” Its objectives are, “to increase medical professionalism, to improve patient safety, to free up physician time and to reduce prescription costs.”

“At lunch time we would have all kinds of vendors lining up to bring food in for physicians and staff,” Yaremchuk said. “You would have patients waiting and someone from a pharmaceutical company would get ushered into the back with the food. It was a clear attempt to influence people who were writing prescriptions.”

Today, reps meeting with Henry Ford Health System doctors must have had completed Ford’s certification program. Certification classes include, “privacy policies, health safety procedures and confidentiality issues.” Additionally, when visiting a surgical department reps are required to wear black scrubs rather than the green worn by medical staff.

Although some physicians and staff miss the freebies, small vendors feel the policy offers a level playing field:

“Some were positive because it leveled the playing field for the smaller companies that didn't have a big budget for pizza and inviting people out to dinner.”

The Henry Ford Health System has benefited from their policy. The company estimates a savings of $10 million a year due to its reduced use of brand name drugs and increased use of generics. Additionally, doctors are not interrupted by sales reps. Under the new policy, certified representatives must make appointments via an Internet registration system, the request has to be made at least five days in advance, and appointments are limited to 15 minutes. A “do not call” list has also been instituted.

Dr. Yaremchuk points out:

"At 15 minutes for each appointment, the policy has saved the health system lots of work time: eight full-time equivalents of physician time per year.”


It appears that the Henry Ford Health System policy would help cut the cost of health care nation-wide, while curtailing influence peddling. What are your thoughts?

For the full story see:, 8/10/09


  1. This is a step, but it is not enough. The University of Michigan Health system, just down the road, has banned reps entirely.

    It would be nice to see Ford have the integrity to do the same.

  2. I agree, Justice. Reps should be banned entirely. Care in healthcare is forgotten when patients are made to wait while pharma reps entertain doctors and staff. Hopefully, the party is coming to a close and more healthcare facilities will follow UofM’s lead.

  3. This is a good first step.

    The other thing is that most doctors are saying they are way too overworked. However, if you do the math you will probably find out that your doctor spends lots of time everywhere else than in the clinic and practice in general. 95% of these trips are industry generated trips that mainly focus on the "commerce" of health care and do not really advance patient care or science in any significant way. Most will argue that they need all of these "networking" opportunities, but they really do not.

    Hope the U of M and Henry Ford Health System are watching how many trips the professional staff are taking and who is funding them....

  4. For those interested in the healthcare debate the attached link is to an interview by Bill Moyer with former Cigna VP Wendell Potter. It's quite informative and I believe puts a huge hole in the argument about government rationed healthcare when it is this very practice that the insurance companies use to maximize profits.

  5. James, thank you for the Bill Moyers link. Wendell Potter is great in this interview. I highly recommend watching it to anyone interested in learning the truth about the insurance industry.

  6. I should note that Former Marketing has a previous post (August 6) on the Whistleblower activities of the Former Cigna VP (Mr. Potter).


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