Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured an interesting article about UPMC implementing a new stance on how their physicians can deal with suppliers. Basically, UPMC is taking a hard look at the influence (or perceived influence) there is on doctors who accept consulting engagements, samples, gifts, and the like from medical suppliers.
So, you say: “What’s the big deal? Implement a conflict of interest policy. This is basic purchasing 101.”
Yes. And no.
I’ve worked in purchasing for a medical university. I’ve done on-site purchasing training in a hospital. And I know many people who work in purchasing in the health care industry.
One of the biggest challenges in healthcare purchasing is getting physicians to change buying habits. They play the “but this affects the quality of patient care!” card so knee-jerkishly (do they teach that in med school?).
And, politically, physicians are strong in their organizations. Even stronger than airline engineers that play the “but this affects aircraft safety!” card.
So it is interesting to see UPMC making some headway on the issue. Specifically, the article says that UPMC physicians:
- Will be prohibited from accepting gifts and tickets, regardless of their value, and most food
- Will require advance approval for any consulting relationships between themselves and manufacturers
- Cannot have their travel and meeting fees picked up by industry representatives
- Will have limits on expenses and compensation when they are hired as speakers at industry events
This new conflict of interest policy is obviously driven from the top, which it must be to have any chance of success. I personally like it because, if it works out, it will help other healthcare supply chain organizations demonstrate that it is reasonable to have such a policy in place.
Anything that can help make a healthcare purchaser’s job easier is more than welcome, in my book!