Constitutionally Right

The only way to predict the future is to create it.

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Location: Yardley, PA (Bucks County), United States

Friday, October 01, 2010

Observations From An O&P Road Warrior: Putting Patient Care First - O&P Business News October 2010

Someone once said that it takes 20 years to be an overnight success. I find that encouraging being an O&P sales rep for 19 years.
It seems like the challenges that continue today began around the time as the talk of universal healthcare. HMO's sprouted up in response that offered billion dollar paychecks to some CEO's and everyone got a legislated advantage (and has been for years) except for patients and those on the front lines of their care. Increased inefficiency overtook our $2 trillion a year healthcare market that patients increasingly navigate through as if in a pinball machine.
Many ACL/OA knee brace reps, for example, responded by seeking ways to profit from fitting patients directly. They would rent space in physicians' offices and/or function out of the trunks of their cars. Many others joined the fray, but a small group of loyal sales reps stayed the course - many to their own demise.
It's always great to commiserate wtih my fellow O&P reps at state and national meetings. We're a hardcore minion who very much like what we do and really like our customers. We all seem to be cut from the same cloth and probably see much of ourselves in those we serve. Many of us have served in the military, were accomplished athletes or simply drive American cars.
I think we stay, in the face of opportunities elsewhere, because we're a bit awed by what you do when you really think about it. One of your prosthetic patients even effortlessly passed me on mile 20 of the Marine Corps Marathon on the very long uphill bridge back into Virginia.
We all just strive to do things the right way (which can be difficult at times). Everyone's scrambling to find the right answers, but it ultimately exists in restoring our healthcare system with the patient in charge (and not lawyers, elected officials or someone in some far away cubicle). For those interested, Regina Herzlinger's "Market Driven Healthcare" and "Who Killed Healthcare?" explains who this must evolve.
We continue to reinvent ourselves in ways that allow us to best serve our patients, our customers and ourselves. In my case, continuing to sell ACL and OA knee braces in a moral manner left me feeling like a WWII Japanese Soldier lost in the jungle after the war ended. A customer recently shared with me that they very much like how I do business, but that's why I'm unfortunately not as successful as I could be. Without blinking I responded that I'm very successful - it's only the "money" part that hasn't yet caught up.
Certainly, many state O&P organizations have implemented or are trying to implement laws to ensure that only qualified personnel are treating patients, but then the challenge of enforcement begins. There's a Bill or two floating around Congress, too, that periodically peeks out from hiding. Again, patients must resume control before we're all to move forward, but a few Band-Aids along the way may serve as a temporary partial fix.
The driving force of reinvention is in how to best serve others in current/existing climates. Serving others is the fundamental element in patient care, sales and product development. It's the core principle of leadership in just about any endeavor. I can't claim any heroics, but spent 5 full-time years in the Marine Corps with those who can. What I learned firsthand from them carries over perfectly into other venues.
They demonstrated that leadership means helping others to do their best. This is a lifelong work-in-progress, but rather simple. It's founded in:
1. Setting the example;
2. Keeping your word;
3. Having the courage to stand up for what's right;
4. Getting the job done without being told;
5. Being friendly a respectful and treating everyone equally;
6. Sharing unpleasant tasks;
7. Privately correcting others when they're wrong, but also helping them when in trouble; and
8. Weighing the facts with honesty and good judgment.
They say to never discuss politics in sales, but I don't know who "They" are and I think that they're wrong. It's your job to educate your doctors why it's a bad idea to have sales reps touching their patients. It may even become criminal so why function in that gray area that's really not all that gray. It's equally or more important to educate your patients why they're best served by qualified professionals. It would seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes I do expect too much. It's knee and back braces today, more involved custom orthoses tomorrow and maybe prosthetics one day unless you band together to get the job done on several fronts - locally, statewide and nationally.
There is strength in numbers.