Physician disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is currently controversial. To address this issue, orthopaedic societies have implemented a variety of guidelines related to potential conflict-of-interest disclosure. Transparency is crucial to address the concerns about potential conflict-of-interest disclosure. Nonetheless, prior studies have noted substantial discrepancies in disclosures to societies for individual authors who present their research work at multiple conferences. Our goal was to evaluate the ability of orthopaedic surgeons to interpret disclosure policy statements regarding project-specific or global disclosure instructions.Methods:
The disclosure policy statements of the ten conferences most frequently attended by this group were collected, and selected statements were compiled into a questionnaire survey that was administered to orthopaedic faculty and trainees at our institution. Subjects were asked to read each statement and identify whether they interpreted the policy to be requesting project-specific disclosures (potential conflict of interest related to the research work in the abstract being submitted) or global disclosure (inclusive of all potential conflicts of interest, including those not associated with the abstract being submitted). The correct responses were identified by communicating with the individual societies and determining the responses desired by the society.Results:
The study had a 100% return rate from seventeen orthopaedic faculty, twenty-five orthopaedic residents and fellows, and twenty-five medical students. The average number of incorrect responses to the ten questions was 2.8. Forty-six percent of respondents had three or more incorrect responses, 24% had two incorrect responses, 19% had one incorrect response, and 10% had no incorrect responses. There was no significant difference in responses between those of different training levels. Subjects were no more likely to answer a project-specific question incorrectly than they were to answer a global question incorrectly.Conclusions:
This study clearly demonstrated a discrepancy between what societies intend to identify with disclosure policies and what the orthopaedist interprets is intended. Almost half of those completing the survey did not correctly understand the intention of three or more of the policies, even with expected study intent bias. This study showed that the language used in disclosure policy statements and the lack of a uniform policy may be a cause of substantial discrepancies in potential conflict-of-interest disclosure.