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Conflicts of interest: What medical residents should know

Conflicts of interest can arise in any profession, and the medical industry is certainly no exception. 

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An educational module from the AMA helps residents better understand how to recognize a potential conflict and how ignoring it can have severe consequences on both a professional and legal level.  

“Conflicts of Interest” is one of the AMA GME Competency Education Program offerings, which include nearly 30 courses that residents can access online through their institution’s subscription, on their own schedule. 

Among the program’s experts are several who contributed to the AMA’s Health Systems Sciencetextbook, which draws insights from faculty at medical schools that are part of the Association’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education consortium.  

Modules cover five of the six topics—patient care, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and system-based practice—within the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s core competency requirements. The sixth requirement, medical knowledge, is one that is typically addressed during clinical education.

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Get ahead of conflicts 

At the most basic level, a conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest with be improperly influenced by a secondary interest. Once residents understand this definition, the AMA module prepares them to identify when conflicts of interest are problematic and recognize how to address them. 

The gravity of the topic is introduced early in the module when it states that “improperly managed conflicts of interest can compromise objectivity in ways that adversely affect the quality of patient care.” It is up to every individual to minimize conflicts that have the potential to interfere with the best interests of patients. 

To help accomplish that goal, the module provides strategies to help physicians identify and manage conflicts, or sometimes eliminate them, as they occur. It walks through a series of real-life medical examples throughout clinical practice, medical research and medical education so residents can think through any potential conflicts and determine—if any are present—the best course of action should a conflict arise. 

Visit the AMA GME Competency Education Program for more information on this and other offerings or to request a demo