That's a question the ECRI Institute asks in a story reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Excerpts:
The ECRI report argues that physicians develop preferences for certain medical device brands as they gain familiarity with the product. Other factors might also inform brand loyalties, said the nonprofit group's president, including the influence of sales representatives as well as paid consulting relationships between manufacturers and doctors.
The ties become so strong that when hospitals recruit orthopedic surgeons and heart specialists to their medical staffs, they find they also have "generally 'recruited' the vendors those MDs favored," the report states. "Exacerbating the situation are device manufacturers' sales representative inside the surgical suite during procedures 'assisting' the physicians as they learn how to use new products."
For hospitals trying to negotiate discounts with suppliers, physician preference items can be a problem when doctors' allegiances limit a medical center's ability to shop around for the best price. Hospitals have been reluctant to push back against doctors on these decisions, the report says, because unhappy doctors can threaten to move their practice to another hospital and take their patients with them.
The solution, according to ECRI Institute, is for hospitals to work cooperatively with physicians to make purchasing decisions that incorporate scientific evidence about the relative merits of devices as well as the value a particular product delivers.