RSNA meeting’s ‘ambiguous’ disclosure policy pushing many radiologists to omit financial conflicts

This story was updated on June 11 at 9:30 am CST.

Financial relationships with industry players can influence physicians in many ways, yet these conflicts are underreported across medical specialties. And new research published Tuesday suggests radiology is no exception.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services publishes annual information on this topic via an Open Payments Database, pegging industry payments to rads at more than $59 million in 2014. Looking at doctors presenting at RSNA’s annual meeting—the world’s leading medical imaging gathering—experts found many aren’t disclosing their monetary ties.

In fact, 47% of the 198 presenters and moderators at the society’s 2018 conference who received industry payments didn’t disclose at least one exceeding $200, researchers reported Tuesday in Radiology. The median undisclosed amount per physician was $6,516.

The authors suggested the Oak Brook, Illinois-based association’s “ambiguous” disclosure policy may be to blame, pushing some rads to withhold ties they view as unrelated to their presentation or research.

“These findings indicate that further efforts are warranted to clarify disclosure policies and to improve understanding and adherence by radiologists,” Ethan J. Speir, MD, with the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, and co-authors wrote.

At the same time, Edward G. Grant, MD, a radiologist at USC Keck Hospital, noted he, along with many physicians he’s spoke with, often declare relationships only when they may impact research or presentations.

“For instance, I fail to see what influence a grant to evaluate fatty liver with a new ultrasound technology has on a funded project using artificial intelligence to classify thyroid nodules,” Grant explained June 8 in an editorial published alongside the study. 

He also called out RSNA’s policy for its two contradictory statements: one, it defines a conflict of interest as a financial relationship that “creates a conflict of interest,” and two, requests disclosure of all relationships with proprietary healthcare entities.

There will always be those who skirt the rules, Grant noted, but he suggests revising and standardizing policies—something that may be on the horizon.

“We need to make requirements clearer and the specifics of disclosure emphasized across medical specialties, at least among our own major societies,” the radiologist added. “In closing, it is my understanding that the RSNA will be revising its own policy in the near future, stating simply that all financial relationships must be disclosed by presenters at the annual meeting.”

Read the entire research letter from Speir et al. here and the accompanying editorial here.

RSNA updated its financial disclosure forms in February to meet new ACME requirements. New disclosure information can be found under the RSNA CME Activity Disclosure" here.

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