Patients can benefit when physicians and other healthcare professionals constructively collaborate with pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers of medical devices, biotechnology companies, or other business entities. Also, healthcare workers can benefit from educational activities that are presented by companies outside their healthcare organization. However, these arrangements may carry the potential for conflict of interest.
Conflict of interest occurs when someone involved in the collaborative or educational activity stands to personally gain --financially, institutionally, or otherwise -- from the activity and, thus, he/she may bias the proceedings. To avoid this conflict, for example, organizations require individuals to disclose any financial or personal relationships they (or immediate family members) have with a commercial interest. A commercial interest is a company that produces healthcare goods or services. Financial benefits that an individual receives may include salary, royalties, consulting fees, stock options, honorariums, etc.
The existence of financial interests or relationships may not automatically prevent someone from participating in an activity, but a full disclosure statement may be requested to ensure transparency and maintain the integrity of the healthcare organization. If a conflict of interest is disclosed, it would be necessary for the individual involved to be excused from the collaboration or educational activity.