Sometimes the timing of things has to make you chuckle. Literally just as ProPublica went live with its most recent database update today, I was attending a briefing on Capitol Hill at which the National Dialogue on Healthcare Innovation (NDHI) formally unveiled principles intended to guide appropriate collaborations between healthcare professionals and industry (both biopharmaceutical and medical devices) that advance medical innovation and patient care.
The briefing offered a refreshing reminder of why these collaborations matter, and how professionals from across the healthcare ecosystem are willing to step forth and explain the value of these interactions. (By value, I mean contribution to medical progress and to achieving better patient outcomes – not just dollar signs attached to names).
The NDHI principles focus on four central and essential themes:
- The benefit to patients: Collaborations at any level, from the research lab to the doctor’s office, must aim to benefit patients and put patients’ interests first.
- The autonomy of healthcare professionals: Healthcare professionals and scientists must be free to assess independently multiple sources of information and treat each patient in a manner consistent with the patient’s needs and best medical practice. This is vital to preserve the public’s trust in the innovation process and in our healthcare system.
- Transparency: Patients and all those involved in healthcare should have reasonable access to relevant and meaningful information about how academic institutions, researchers, healthcare professionals, and medical products companies engage in collaborative relationships. Transparency builds trust between patients and the healthcare professionals who serve them.
- Accountability: All participants across healthcare must be responsible for their actions. External regulation is important here, but internal self-regulation with recurrent training and communication is essential to this effort.
These principles – formally referred to as a “Joint Statement on 21st Century Collaboration for Healthcare Advancement” – originated from a summit coordinated by the Healthcare Leadership Council in October 2010. Following the summit, participating groups – including PhRMA – worked together to develop and document these shared beliefs. As the preamble to the principles notes, they are not meant to “replace or subsume” existing guidelines and codes (such as PhRMA’s Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals), but rather to “provide a basic framework to help guide collaborative efforts and maintain the confidence and trust of all participants in our healthcare system, including patients, providers, payers, industry, researchers, academia and government.”
The list of organizations participating in NDHI is broadly representative: the Association of American Medical Colleges, AdvaMed, the American Osteopathic Association, Cleveland Clinic, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, Friends of Cancer Research, Healthcare Leadership Council, Lahey Clinic, Medtronic, Eli Lilly & Company and PhRMA, among others. As a member of one of the NDHI working groups, I personally am proud to be associated with such an impressive group.
Regarding the transparency principle – particularly relevant today – panelist David Caraway, MD, PhD, St. Mary’s Medical Center, perhaps said it best at the briefing: if done correctly, with the proper context, “transparency helps infuse even more integrity into good collaborations between industry and physicians.”