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January 21, 2011

Medical Center, School of Medicine adopt comprehensive policy prohibiting gifts, meals and promotional items from all vendors

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The University of Virginia Medical Center and University of Virginia School of Medicine have instituted a comprehensive policy which effectively bans all gifts, meals and promotional items given to employees by vendors and contractors associated with the health system.

The ban, which went into effect October 1, applies to all people who provide patient care or other services within or for the benefit of the health system, regardless of their employer.

“In looking at the issue of conflicts of interest, vendor interactions and the influence of companies on healthcare decision makers and providers, we wanted to create a policy that leaves no grey area open for interpretation as to what is allowed and what is not allowed and we believe this new policy addresses all concerns,” says R. Edward Howell, Vice President and CEO of UVA Medical Center. “This policy, in effect, changes the way health care professionals and vendors interact at UVA.”

The UVA Medical Center and UVA School of Medicine have been developing this comprehensive policy for the past two years.

The policies of the two entities have been revised to prohibit all people covered from accepting meals on all University Grounds, gifts of any kind (regardless of value), promotional items (pens, mugs, pads, etc.), or product samples for personal or family use. Vendors can only support educational programs or events through unrestricted gifts to the University of Virginia or the Medical Center. Nominal items expressly for educational purposes are allowed.

All vendors doing business with the two entities are covered under the revised policies, including medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, construction firms and office supply distributors.

Under the policy, accepting drug samples for patient use is still permitted, however, several departments and clinics have stopped distributing samples and the use of all samples is under review.

“As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, we felt it was important to take a strong position to ensure our physicians, nurses, students and staff are free from any potential conflicts of interest. We believe this new policy may serve as a model for healthcare organizations across the nation,” explains Steven DeKosky, M.D., Vice President and Dean of the UVA School of Medicine.

The UVA Medical Center and UVA School of Medicine has begun the process of notifying all employees, faculty, and vendors associated with the organization of the new policies.

John B. Hanks, M.D., president of the Clinical Staff at UVA Medical Center and chief of the Division of Surgery, says the policy should remove any doubts from the minds of patients that vendors might influence decisions over their treatment or care.

“The physicians, nurses and clinical staff of the University of Virginia Health System always put the needs of the patient first and foremost in any clinical decisions we make. While we firmly believe vendors have not held any influence over our clinical decisions, this policy will eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest at UVA,” Hanks says.

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