this time, I would be loathing this organization a
few decades later."
Denial is strong when we are compelled by accessibility to depend on one hospital. No one will admit to living near a bad hospital, or even a hospital with a problem – that would be cause for community wide fear and distrust. That is why your hospital will never get the full truth from the great majority of your patients.
On Wednesday, December 15th, between of 11:05 a.m. and 11:20 a.m., I witnessed 5 sales representatives exit the building through the lobby of Middlesex Primary Care in Essex while I sat nauseous waiting to be seen. The door kept opening, the freezing air kept blowing in. A sales person seemed to be crossing the threshold every couple of minutes.
I felt like a second priority in that office. I thought that if one of these sales people has been sitting with my doctor for even one minute that might have been mine, then I was being ripped off by big faceless unaccountable corporations at my doctor’s office. Corporations so deep in competition they have to send out armies of young pill pushers with gifts to sit waiting in lobby chairs intended for patients. Is my doctor capable of researching his own drugs? Can he not make the decision to prescribe a medication based on his own qualified opinion? If my doctor’s practice has been tainted by the influence of corporate sales representatives, I should be entitled to know.
This letter represents an opportunity for Middlesex Hospital to live up to its own published policy. From your own web page titled Standards of Business Ethics and Conduct: “It should be remembered that the appearance of a conflict of interest may be just as damaging to the system’s reputation as a real conflict, and the appearance is often difficult for the individuals involved to discern.”
Most importantly I want to trust my doctor. When he gives me a prescription order I want to know he is behind it with his full confidence. I want to trust that he is not giving me a particular drug because its maker supplied him with pens and clipboards and passed him (under the table) tickets to Hawaii. I would also like know that the health care professionals treating me are not a bunch of sell-outs.
Last year by general agreement, arranged by a private standards company, with no consequences, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, not the people’s laws, issued an unenforceable edict that drug companies are no longer supposed to give influential gifts. But little has changed. Some pharmaceutical companies have ignored the new standards. And the rest of these companies have realized that a gift unseen is no gift at all, essentially fooling the public and hospital administrators.
I don’t bitch about something without having an answer to the problem. Here is a solution which can stop the conflict of interest, and the appearance of conflict of interest: Stop all daily sales representative traffic. Hold a monthly conference (like an indoor boat show) where sales representatives can swarm in with all their goodies like parachuters on D-day and have great access to the health care professionals of your hospital. Agree on one rule: for instance gifts to walk away with should be no larger than a football. Hospitals and health care products companies can collaborate to make this monthly event a great day. Convince the drug companies to foot the bill (it would really be in their interest). Lilly can set up a carousel for the children. Roche can hire a band. Glaxo Smith Kline can supply food, and etcetera. A fun day for all with unmatched corporate sales access that the patient does not have to see. Imagine the capitalism, United States corporations winning over clients because they have a better product than the other corporations. That sounds familiar.