Academic medical institutions are being forced to allocate a growing amount of money and employee hours to conflict-of-interest disclosure activities, according to healthcare policy experts.
Full disclosure a full-time job
Academia forced to spend more, devote extra time to monitor potential conflicts
They say political pressure as well as proposed and newly passed laws requiring disclosure of relationships between medical professionals and healthcare-products companies are responsible for the burgeoning strain on providers resources.
Susan Ehringhaus, senior director and associate general counsel for the Association of American Medical Colleges said that federal law has long required conflict-of-interest reporting by medical institutions receiving federal funding for research projects.
As a result, the process is not foreign to research institutions. Most organizations have some sort of process where they send out conflicts-of-interest questionnaires annually, said Bill Sacks, vice president and co-founder of software company Health Care Compliance Strategies.
But well-publicized lapses in reporting have prompted a host of efforts to publicly disclose financial ties between providers and industry. These efforts include the proposed federal Physician Payments Sunshine Actwhich the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee recently recommended include a requirement for academic medical institutions to disclose their financial ties to industryand recent announcements of disclosure plans by Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic.
As a result, academic medical institutions and other providers have to spend more time and money tracking such potential conflicts. Thats a huge expense, because it requires establishing committees and investing in the electronic systems needed to sort and scrub the reported information. All those demands have been steadily increasing over the years, Ehringhaus said.
J. Douglas Clark, chairman of the conflict-of-interest committee at Detroits Henry Ford Health System, estimates his organization invests more than 2,500 employee hours annually in tracking, sorting and reviewing roughly 3,000 conflict-of-interest disclosures made annually by employees. The push toward disclosure legislation has prompted the healthcare provider to investigate purchasing technology that would automate a portion of the tracking and reporting process, Clark said.
Clark estimates spending at least six figures annually on such a system. The in-the-door fee to license tracking software is around $50,000, he said. But by the time you look at the volume costs its actually going to be about $100,000 annually.
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