A new survey to evaluate conflict of interest policies at academic medical centers

by SRA International on Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Excerpt from original article, "A new survey to evaluate conflict of interest policies at academic medical centers," posted on PLOS News, March 15, 2017.


A majority of academic medical centers (AMCs) have now adopted conflict of interest policies (COI) to address relationships with pharmaceutical and device industries that can increase the risk of bias in patient care, education and research. However, AMCs may have little information on the impact of their policies. This paper provides a new method, which is a free, publicly-available survey, to fill this information gap and improve COI programs at AMCs.

Methods & findings
The survey, piloted in three AMCs and designed in collaboration with national conflicts of interest policy experts, covers a range of universal compliance-related concerns, which allows institutions to tailor questions to align with their own policies and culture. The survey was low-burden, and provided important data for these AMCs to evaluate their policies. A descriptive analysis of the pooled pilot site data (n = 1578) was performed, which found that a majority of respondents did not have financial ties with industry and a majority was satisfied with specific COI policies at their institutions. The analysis also showed that the survey is sensitive to differences that AMCs will find meaningful. For instance, individuals with industry ties were significantly more likely than individuals without ties to think that COI policies unnecessarily hindered interactions with industry (p = .004), were ineffective at reducing harm to patients (p < .001), and were ineffective in reducing bias in medical education (p>.001).

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