The MedTech Europe Code of Ethical Business Practice entered into force on the 1st January 2017, with the phase-out of direct sponsorship that needs to be implemented in less than a year from now.
The Code has been the topic of many conversations. However, until recently, we did not have the opinion of individual Healthcare Professionals. Our conversations happened in particular with the organisations representing them. In January, we formally interviewed a sample of Healthcare Professionals coming from different countries. This blog is about sharing the key findings of these interviews.
As a background note, most aspects regulated by the Code were already covered by these previous Codes, but there is one fundamental change brought by the new Code that affects Healthcare Professionals. We are of course talking about the change in the model of support to Healthcare Professionals attending Third Party Organised Educational Conferences. The new model requires that a company provides an Educational Grant to a Healthcare Organisation (e.g. medical society, hospital), the latter selecting the Healthcare Professional(s) attending the conference. The Grant covers the costs such as travel, accommodation, and conference registration. The direct selection and support by companies of Healthcare Professionals to attend a given Conference or Congress will not be allowed anymore at the end of this year.
The focus of the interviews was about this change. During our discussions with Healthcare Professionals regarding this new model of Educational Grants, one thing became clear; the majority of interviewed Healthcare Professionals were not at all against the change. In fact, a majority welcomed the changes as, according to them, it would bring more legitimacy and transparency. Some Healthcare Professionals also advocated that an independent selection by hospitals was much better than industry selecting HCPs. In their view, hospitals know better who needs training and attend a particular conference.
This is not to say that some of them were not afraid that this new model might mean less access to industry support to their medical education. In some countries where it is mandatory to obtain a minimum amount of Continuous Medical Education credits, this prospect is dreaded in particular by young physicians, as newly graduated Healthcare Professionals are often unable to cover the increasingly large cost of attending some medical conferences.
Others mentioned that this model of Educational Grants only means more red tape. Nonetheless, provided HCPs can still access funds to support their medical education, they were not fundamentally against it, even though they were wary of a perceived lack of trust in their independent medical judgement.
More broadly, we also asked them about the perceived conflict of interest in the direct sponsorship model. Here, Healthcare Professionals remained adamant that their independent medical judgement would never be compromised by direct sponsorship. They tend to see the involvement of industry in the support of medical education as a natural consequence of the abandonment of continuous medical education by governments. According to many of them, industry simply took ownership of what should be funded by governments.
In the majority of cases, they did not feel that public opinion had started to look at this relationship with more distrusting eyes, but they did acknowledge a growing shift in perception among their own colleagues.
One additional element which came out of the discussions was the fact that they welcomed the prospect of more, different physicians benefitting from the support, noting that under the previous model, there seemed to be a tendency for the same physicians to be selected.
On the other hand, a majority of Healthcare Professionals, while being in favour of the changes, noted that the new system could be seriously hampered by overly formalistic procedures. They are hoping their industry partners find a pragmatic way to implement these changes.
All in all, we came out of these conversations with the impression that interviewed Healthcare Professionals understood why industry decided to move away from direct sponsorship. That is not to say that everyone agreed and at the end of the day, we interviewed only so many Healthcare Professionals. There are probably many more views out there and maybe there are more differences depending on the country and the specialty.
We invite you to join these conversations, to be continued during our yearly Global MedTech Compliance Conference, taking place in Amsterdam on May 3-4! The programme is now available and the conference will feature a session on educational grants optimisation and an interactive session on Codes Convergence. Attendees from non-profit organisations are eligible to receive a discounted rate.
So stay tuned!
This blog is part of the GMTCC 2017 blog series. You can follow the conversation under #GMTCC and find more details and at gmtcc.com.