The Commitment to Conflict of Interest (COI) Management Is Mostly Strong across U.S. Healthcare

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

No individual in a healthcare leadership position wants his or her organization to face a public COI scandal that would have a negative effect on its reputation and the perception of care provided. That makes conflict of interest management vital—violations can create a public relations nightmare with an impact on operations, finances, and care quality.

Healthcare Leaders Were Surveyed about COI Management and Compliance

To understand how industry organizations are managing and preventing conflicts of interest (COIs), HCCS—A HealthStream Company surveyed 281 compliance leaders about their organizations’ COI programs. One of the survey’s goals was to establish an industry-wide picture of the commitment to COI management and examine it across multiple variables.

A Mostly Strong Commitment to COI Management Overall

Some of the survey results convincingly showed that COI Compliance is a prominent function that healthcare organizations take seriously. Nearly 85% of the organizations surveyed have a COI management program in place, and over 90% of the organizations have a formal COI policy in effect. In over 70% of the organizations, the compliance department oversees this function.

Some COI Management specifics revealed by the survey results are further evidence that the commitment is significant. Nearly 60% of respondents answered that their organizational user data for COIs resides in a centralized database. Approximately one in five leaders (19.2%) indicate they achieve a 100% completion rate for their annual survey in less than one month. An additional 24.2% report that it takes them 1-2 months to achieve the 100% rate.

A large majority of those surveyed include the leadership of the organization in the COI management process. 73.0% include Board Members, 78.7% include employed physicians, and 87.1% target senior level management at the director level and above. A lesser but still significant number include purchasing (35.4%, supply chain management (34.8%), researchers/investigators (30.9%), and non-employed physicians (29.2%).

The approach to reviewing COI disclosures is an important positive note. Two-thirds of leaders (66.9%) say that disclosures are reviewed as soon as they are submitted. Nearly half of respondents (43.8%) say they have a COI committee to review escalated disclosures. A clear majority of respondents (55.0%) indicated that leadership is “very supportive” when mitigation is required.

In Some of the Details, the Commitment to COI Is Less Pronounced

When asked how they manage the COI process, nearly 30% answered a combination of paper forms, spreadsheets, and cloud-based systems. The dominant reasons for the systems used was resource constraints (25.8%) and cost constraints (14.5%) or the continued use of inherited/legacy systems (11.3%). Clearly, healthcare isn’t putting a significant amount of money into its COI management efforts currently.

Ultimately, these survey results reveal an environment for healthcare COI management characterized both by significant effort and engagement. Simultaneously, there is room for greater effectiveness and efficiency as well as investment in systems that help organizations do an even better job of protecting themselves and their patients.

Learn more about COI-SMART, our comprehensive conflict of interest management system, which is currently used at more than 1,200+ locations around the country.