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PLoS One. 2017 Mar 15;12(3):e0172472. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172472. eCollection 2017.

A new survey to evaluate conflict of interest policies at academic medical centers.

Author information

Community Catalyst, Boston, MA, United States of America.
Office of Institutional Compliance at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States of America.
Innovation Management and Conflict of Interest (IM&COI) Program at Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, United States of America.
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, United States of America.
Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, United States of America.
Office of Patient Experience, Department of Bioethics, at Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, United States of America.



A majority of academic medical centers (AMCs) have now adopted conflict of interest policies (COI) to address relationships with pharmaceutical and device industries that can increase the risk of bias in patient care, education and research. However, AMCs may have little information on the impact of their policies. This paper provides a new method, which is a free, publicly-available survey, to fill this information gap and improve COI programs at AMCs.


The survey, piloted in three AMCs and designed in collaboration with national conflicts of interest policy experts, covers a range of universal compliance-related concerns, which allows institutions to tailor questions to align with their own policies and culture. The survey was low-burden, and provided important data for these AMCs to evaluate their policies. A descriptive analysis of the pooled pilot site data (n = 1578) was performed, which found that a majority of respondents did not have financial ties with industry and a majority was satisfied with specific COI policies at their institutions. The analysis also showed that the survey is sensitive to differences that AMCs will find meaningful. For instance, individuals with industry ties were significantly more likely than individuals without ties to think that COI policies unnecessarily hindered interactions with industry (p = .004), were ineffective at reducing harm to patients (p < .001), and were ineffective in reducing bias in medical education (p>.001).


The survey is now free and publicly available for use by any institution. AMCs can use the results to update and refine policies, and to provide ongoing education regarding existing policies.

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