Perception vs. Reality of Industry Support

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Last month we were discussing the changes to educational programs, something those of us in sales have long seen as a “safe harbor.” To learn the latest, review the recent White Paper (PDF) issued by the American Board of Medical Specialties which includes their discussion on commercial funding of medical education.  Thanks to our friends at Policy & Medicine for bringing this to my attention.

This is a discussion of CME programs, their future and where the line in the industry-physician support needs to be drawn. Please take a moment to review the document, and provide feedback to the ABMS committee before March 1.

One line that particularly struck me was about how negative public perception of conflicts of interest between industry and clinical seems to be.

“ABMS serves as a public trust and published articles suggest the public’s perception concerning commercial funding of CME for physicians is not positive.  As such, it is important for ABMS to reflect both the reality and perception of the consequences of relationships between industry and physicians, as well as between industry and CME providers.”

What often follows is some big agency swooping in to regulate the CME industry, just like in other industries. If this is going to happen we need to raise our voice now, and demonstrate all the good that comes from the relationships between doctors and industry. Even ABMS acknowledges the potential promise of well-defined industry support to CME:

“There may be alignment between commercial support and the public interest to the extent that commercial support may

  1. facilitate affordable access to CME activities for physicians (especially physicians in rural and/or underserved areas)
  2. accelerate the translation of new science and technologies into clinical practice and drive practice change (the importance of this aspect for equipment dependent specialties such as surgery and radiology was emphasized)
  3. promote multi-center or multi-provider group activities; and
  4. encourage educational innovation.”

What about all of the new ideas for drugs and devices that help untold numbers of patients as a result from such collaborations? These new ideas don’t happen in a vacuum. Some industry trade groups like AdvaMed may need to spread the word about positive examples of collaboration. If not– well, then we all know that perception is reality, and right now the perception is that these relationships are evil.

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