Medical device managers rely on physicians to screen out defects, study suggests

Rather than issuing a recall, medical device managers rely on their physician-customers to screen out defective products and not use them on patients, a new behavioral study published in the Journal of Operations Management suggests.  

For the study, researchers at Indiana University and the University of Minnesota interviewed 167 managers from a Fortune 500 medical device firm to uncover what influences voluntary product recall decisions. It was the first behavioral study that used actual industry managers. The study was then replicated with 614 subjects from Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Overall, the study found that managers were less likely to issue a recall when a physician could detect the defect prior to product use.

"Managers appear to trust physicians to screen out defects on behalf of the firm, meaning that when the defect is detectable to the physician, managers are less likely to recall, the study authors wrote. "This is because of a perception of increased patient safety when defects are detectable."

Researchers also found that some managers hesitate to recall a product until the root cause is determined. The authors suggested that waiting to understand the defect before issuing a recall may save the firm a hit to their reputation and bottom line.

"By uncovering behavioral factors and their mechanisms in the recall decision, this study offers important insights to both industry and regulators," study authors conclude.

Read the full study here.

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