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Conflict of Interest Guidelines

Introduction:

This Conflict of interest guideline is intended to provide guidance and options and is not to be considered as an absolute.  Conflicts of interest are inevitable.  It is the intent of these guidelines to articulate that both parties, MassAFP and the individual have responsibility for identifying potential conflicts ahead of time and taking appropriate actions to minimize potential consequences.

MassAFP has the responsibility to regularly review conflict of interest statements, discuss potential conflicts with the individual, identify potential conflicts before each meeting (board meetings, committee meetings, workgroup meetings and etc.), set expectations and take appropriate action ahead of time.  By doing so routinely, MassAFP sets the expectation that conflicts are not necessarily bad, or require a corrective action, but need to be articulated and understood by the participants.  The convener of the meeting has the primary responsibility for broaching possible conflicts.  In the event that the convener of the meeting has a conflict an officer of MassAFP will assume responsibility for assessing possible conflicts

Common sense, transparency, consensus and consistency are critical components to an effective strategy in dealing with potential conflicts of interest.  Conflict most often arises in areas that involve advocacy, finances and influence. 

The following simple steps are intended to set boundaries and yet still provide individual discretion:

  • Review what a conflict of interest consists of:
    Definition of a Conflict:
    • A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when the obligations of a board member or committee member to MassAFP are influenced or compromised by self-interest, a prior commitment, competing loyalties, or an inability to be objective, and that which may or may not result in a financial gain.

    • A Conflict of Interest exists with respect to any issue on which the Academy may act where (i) an Interested Person has a Personal or Private Interest, or (ii) an Interested Person is “aware” that a member of his or her Family has a Personal or Private Interest.

  • Types of Conflict:
    • An ownership or investment interest in any entity (other than a 5% or less ownership in a publicly-traded corporation) with which the Academy has a transaction or arrangement;

    • A compensation arrangement with the Academy or with any entity or individual with which the Academy has a transaction or arrangement;

    • A position in a public office or institution, whether appointed, elected or employed, which will require participation in matters involving the Academy;

    • An uncompensated consultant, officer, committee member or board member of any entity with which the Academy has a transaction or arrangement; or

    • Any other interest which may compete with or conflict with the interests of the Academy.

  • Clearly state the topics to be covered in a meeting.

  • Based on the definition of a conflict and the delineation of what will be discussed at the meeting:
    • Identify any potential conflicts based on submitted conflict of interest forms.
    • Ask attendees if anyone has a conflict of interest to declare.

  • Determine the best approach in dealing with the potential conflict:
    • Publicly identify and state the conflict.
    • State the parameters for dealing with the conflict:
      • Person(s) with the conflict simply states the conflict.
      • Person(s) with the conflict contributes to the discussion and is allowed to participate in the decision making process.
      • Person(s) with the conflict contributes to the discussion but is not allowed to participate in the decision making process.
      • Person(s) with the conflict neither contributes to the discussion nor participate in the decision making process.
      • Person(s) with the conflict is excused from that portion of the meeting dealing with the issue.

  • Have the meeting record clearly state that a conflict was identified, who it involved and what level of participation was agreed upon.

  • In the event that a conflict or potential conflict is identified after the fact, the matter will be referred to the MassAFP Executive Committee.  The Executive Committee will refer to the MassAFP Conflict of Interest Policy and take the appropriate action.

  • Actions available to the Executive Committee include:
    • Discuss the issue of an undisclosed conflict with the individual in private, review the Conflict of Interest Policy and articulate future expectations.
    • In the event that there are multiple incidents of not declaring potential conflicts, the Executive Committee may:
      • Discuss the issue again in private with the individual.
      • Restrict the individual’s participation on the Board or committee.
      • Request that the individual take action to eliminate the conflict.
      • Request that the individual voluntarily resign from the Board or committee.
      • Vote to remove the individual from the Board or committee.

Below is a list of possible scenarios, corresponding expectations and potential MassAFP options or actions.  The information provided here is for consideration.  Actual events and circumstances must be considered.  The above guidelines and the MassAFP Conflict of Interest policy should be consulted before final action is taken.

Approved by Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians Board on June 10, 2016

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