A career in medicine promises a bright future for most who choose it. With a worldwide population on the rise and a shortage of skilled medical professionals, there is a need for more people to step up and take the Hippocratic oath now more than ever before. But taking that oath, and upholding its values means that any biases that may exist must be cast aside while pursuing a medical education. The doctors of tomorrow cannot allow themselves to be swayed by external forces, and in the process compromise on the quality of care that they provide. With industry support taking an even larger role in grooming and shaping the skills and abilities of doctors at medical schools and teaching hospitals, public interest must always lie at the heart of every endeavor.
The need for an unbiased medical education
External factors having an impact on work that’s being performed on a day-to-day basis in any industry poses major problems, but for it to happen so blatantly in medicine is a cause for major concern. Public perceptions and their knowledge of health and healthy practices stem from medical fraternity around the world. People trust their doctors to heal them, and any bias in this situation can prove to be deadly.
Why has the dependence on industry increased?
The problems faced by the medical fraternity are not of their own making. The costs involved in the transformation from a student applying at a medical college to a full-time doctor and then the additional burden specializations and postgraduate studies are extremely high. Loans taken to help pursue this line of work can become increasingly difficult to service and can lead to a period of frustration, where financial growth doesn’t match perceived skill-set. Medical professionals with heavy financial burdens can then be forced to look to other avenues to help them overcome these challenges and provide a service that’s desperately needed around the world.
The increasing number of poor patients and those without insurance makes overcoming debt a daunting prospect for medical professionals as well. If your customers are unable to pay what’s needed, then the costs of that treatment need to be offset, which then leads to identifying and working with sources that can support these rising costs.
Why is industry-funded continuing medical education not ideal?
Why bite the hand that feeds? The threat of costs spiraling out of control and prevention of access to life-changing education and information is very real. With a significant portion of the total income for medical schools coming from industry. Many of the courses on offer are also funded by this income and may have to be discontinued in the future if this source of income is curtailed. Even at events for continuing medical education fees for participation are often taken from external sources, while some speakers are also compensated for their presence and views, which may raise ethical concerns.
Is there a potential solution?
A medical education without any external influence may seem like a challenging prospect, but is achievable with specific rules and regulations in place that restrict:
- Items of material value from being accepted, especially when they are from pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology companies.
- Industry-controlled education/scientific presentations.
- Consulting services that are not on written contracts based on fair market value.
- Access to drug/medical device representatives (except in cases of training, evaluation of medical devices and patient safety.)
- Usage of drug samples, except in situations that warrant their use, such as patients who lack financial access to medicines.
While the adoption at an institutional level may be far away, the acceptance of the larger medical fraternity may force a shift in thought processes, and mindsets, facilitating a bias-free medical education for aspirants everywhere.