Increased scrutiny around conflicts of interest in health care has some providers beginning to rethink their relationships with makers of medical device and drug manufacturers. This call for greater transparency stems from the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (Sunshine Act), which requires manufacturers to track and report payment, transfer and ownership information given to providers and teaching hospitals. The Sunshine Act, which went into effect on August 1, 2013, requires manufacturers to submit reports to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on an annual basis. Starting September 2014, the majority of the information collected will be publicly available.
The collection and public reporting of these financial ties should have many benefits, two of which include reducing inappropriate influence on reporting the results of medical research and avoiding conflicts of interest that may compromise quality of care. At the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation, we are dedicated to improving the quality of medical decisions by providing unbiased, accurate and credible information to patients and providers. Each year, our employees, medical editors, board members, clinical advisors and consultants (with a direct role in evidence management) must disclose any financial relationships with groups or organizations that may be perceived to have an interest or investment in certain treatment choices or approaches, over others. We also require members of our team with a direct role in evidence management to accept no payments or research support from drug or device manufacturers, as well as to divest of any ownership of stock or stock options in these manufacturing companies. In addition, we have a very rigorous selection process in place for prospective medical editors, as this group in particular has the highest level of influence over the medical evidence we publish. We are proud of our staff and medical editors for following these rules. Although our conflict of interest policies are quite strict, we believe that they are necessary in order to improve the quality of medical decisions, which in turn contributes to achieving the Triple Aim of health care: better care, improved patient experience and lower costs.