This blog is part of the GMTCC 2018 blog series. You can follow the conversation under #GMTCC and find more details and at gmtcc.com. Check out related blogs: Swifter, Higher, Stronger: Promoting MedTech Ethics on the Global Stage, How to create and maintain an ethical culture,Global Responsibility, Global Ethics and Compliance, Global Principles for MedTech Innovation, Progress and new challenges after 10 years of collaboration,Distributors play key role in compliance and Health data can transform our lives – but must be used wisely
The MedTech Code was designed by industry to ensure compliance with the highest ethical and legal standards. However, dialogue with professional medical societies is essential if we are to avoid unintended negative consequences for the quality and accessibility of education. It’s time to explore new models of collaboration
Continuing medical education (CME) is a life-long commitment for clinicians. Through independently developed courses, they stay up to date with the latest scientific and technological advances in their field. Keeping doctors’ knowledge current directly benefits patients and helps developers of innovative technologies and techniques to disseminate information.
CME has been successfully provided for decades through professional bodies at annual congresses and specialised seminars. As a past-President of the European Society of Cardiology and member of the Alliance for Biomedical Research in Europe (BioMed Alliance) – a network of 29 research-driven biomedical societies with more than 400,000 members – I have seen first-hand how professional societies support education.
Congresses have attracted support from industry in a number of ways, including through unrestricted grants, and where companies cover the registration and travel costs of individual doctors. Income from these events have allowed congresses to grow; to cover a wide range of disease areas (including rare conditions); and to redeploy any surplus to other key activities for the advancement of care which are not income generating, such as guidelines development, registries and research studies.
To be clear, medical societies are not-for-profit organisations. Where there is a surplus, it goes towards lobbying health and research policymakers, and to supporting initiatives in the developing world where there is less commercial interest.
The MedTech Europe Code spells a change from direct sponsorship of individual doctors to indirect sponsorships through Educational Grants provided to Healthcare Organisations (HCOs). Following the changes, the number of specialists at the most recent European Society of Cardiology congress fell from around 5,000 to 3,000 – a sudden drop that would have major implications for the future of medical education if not addressed quickly. Colleagues from other medical societies, participants to the BioMed Alliance Task Force working on future of CME, are experiencing similar significant attendance reduction affecting their congresses and educational events.
The way forward – new models of collaboration
Together with Michel Ballieu, BioMed Alliance Executive Director, I attended the recent Global MedTech Compliance Conference in Paris and was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this challenge with industry leaders. These companies’ representatives have constructively expressed a continuous commitment to continue support for education. It is clear, then, that we need new models of collaboration that connect doctors to educational programmes developed by their peers and respected clinical leaders, while integrating industry expertise and facilitating medtech companies in complying with the industry’s voluntary code.
The medtech sector has a unique role in training doctors in how to use new products safely and effectively. As a cardiologist, I greatly appreciate the technical expertise that companies bring to the operating theatre.
However, product-specific training is not medical education. It would be concerning if industry partners sought to position themselves as direct providers of CME to physicians rather than collaborating with independent education providers on unbiased, high-quality curriculum.
The BioMed Alliance has established an active taskforce to engage with other stakeholders in recasting the relationship between industry and professional societies. ESC has already published a paper on this topic and the BioMed Alliance has another in the pipeline with the purpose of developing an awareness campaign targeting HCPs as well as the public, and the political authorities .
By developing a new ethical and transparent relationship between professional medical societies and the medical industry, we can work together to safeguard medical education and standards of healthcare. Anything less would be detrimental to patients, healthcare professionals and industry.