Dr. Furr’s rep stops by regularly and has been helpful in finding instruments for new sinus procedures and special injection supplies, like microcannulas, for his cosmetics procedures when he was having difficulty determining which were the most established products. However, like small businesses of any type, small practices aren’t as likely to get the kind of high-volume discounts that larger practices can get, and cost cutting wherever possible is often a major consideration.
Explore This IssueOctober 2017
And there are other reasons for cost cutting. “We’re always looking to limit overhead costs because we’re getting squeezed on the revenue side from reduced reimbursements and a more competitive market as far as insurance [goes],” Dr. Furr said. “Anything we can do to reduce overhead costs from the business side—whether on office or medical supplies—is definitely something we like to do.”
Most of all, Dr. Furr would be very interested if Amazon got into the distribution of hearing aids and could provide cost savings on those devices. “The overall cost to us of those sorts of purchases is much greater than for any amount of gauze or tongue depressors,” he said.
Phillip Scott Ballinger, MD, an otolaryngologist with ENT Associates of Alabama, PA, a three-physician group based in Montgomery, said he has no problem using Amazon for medical supplies, because he already uses them for printer ink at the office, as well as his personal shopping.
“Medical supplies aren’t cheap, and anything to contain cost is good,” he said. “I am a little concerned, however, about sales tax not being collected,” he added. “I know a few years back in Arkansas, they went around and assessed all the dentists for sales tax they didn’t pay by buying supplies online.”
Healthcare experts expect Amazon Business may do some damage to the medical supplies industry. However, a lot may depend on how indispensible medical supply sales reps have made themselves to the clinics they serve.
Renée Bacher is a freelance medical writer based in Louisiana.