The term paper is mainly based on the possible conflicts of interest that are likely to arise in a hospital setup. The main conflict of interest that have been discussed relate to physicians and their patients. The paper also discusses the duties of shareholders, board of directors, officers and management of an organization. The paper further discusses various relations within a hospital setup.
Conflicts of interest are common within the healthcare sector and thus needs urgent policies to address them. In virtually all cases, presence of this type of conflict serves as an indication of broad diversity, accomplishments and experiences of institutional policy and decision makers. It therefore follows that the main objective of any policy of dealing with this type of conflict is to identify possible conflicts of interests and at the same time manage such conflicts. Although it might not be possible to completely eliminate conflicts of interest within the healthcare sector, policies should be developed by the relevant stakeholders so as to ensure that this type of conflict is minimized as much as possible (Morrison & Monagle, 2009).
Conflicts of interest
Within the healthcare sector, conflict of interest is said to exist if one of the healthcare stakeholders’ responsibility or obligation to other people is influenced either unconsciously or consciously, by personal or financial factors. For these factors to be considered to have enough weight to influence the healthcare stakeholder, they must involve significant self interest on the part of the stakeholder. In a capitalist system that is profit driven, the main factor that is likely to contribute to conflict of interest is most likely associated with financial considerations.
In most cases, conflict of interest within the healthcare sector is brought about by the healthcare professionals who use their positions to serve their own interests at the detriment of the patients and the general public who are supposed to be served by the professionals and the main decision and policy makers. Such conduct by the professionals and mainstream decision and policy makers within the healthcare sector is unethical (Jones, 1998).
Normally, codes of ethics are developed in order to minimize as much as possible the conflicts of interests that are likely to develop among various stakeholders. The codes of ethics are thus aimed at safeguarding the interests of the patients which is the most vulnerable group within the healthcare sector. Codes of ethics are essential in reducing problem occurrences as they elaborate the degree to which conflicts of interests are to be avoided. In addition, the codes of ethics explain clearly what is expected from various parties.
Through the codes of ethics, the professionals are barred from claiming that they were not aware that their actions and behaviors which were improper were indeed unethical. Significantly, the disciplinary action threat on the person breaching the code of ethics assists in minimizing improper acts or unacceptable conflicts during instances when avoiding a conflict is not possible (Morrison & Monagle, 2009).
One of the major types of conflict of interest that arise within the healthcare sector is financially related. This type of conflict arises because both the healthcare providers and the patients have some interests in the costs of providing the healthcare services. While the healthcare providers aim at maximizing their profits, the patients look for ways and means of reducing their costs of acquiring the healthcare services. Financial conflict of interest is also likely to occur in situations where the healthcare professionals working in the public healthcare facilities are also operating private hospitals. Although such a practice might not necessarily bring about a conflict of interest, there is a possibility of such a conflict arising if the practice is not well regulated.
The medical professionals are likely to make more money while operating their own private hospitals. Therefore, if a medical professional is allowed to practice in both the public and private healthcare facilities, there is a high possibility of a conflict of interest arising as the medical professional will spend more time in his private hospital and thus neglect the patients seeking for the services at the public hospitals (Kassirer, 2001).
Within the healthcare sector, physicians and patients are the main stakeholders who meet most frequently. Several conflicts are thus likely to emerge from the numerous contacts between these parties. Since the patients and the physicians interact with one another at a personal level, there is a high possibility of one of them infringing the personal life of the other. The physician is usually at a better position to take advantage of the patient while seeking to serve his own interests at the expense of the well being of the patient.
A physician can sexually abuse a patient who is innocently seeking medical services from him or her. Even though the professional code of ethics of the physicians strictly forbids such behaviors among the physicians, it is still possible for such relations to continue since the physicians will in most cases use the available loopholes in taking advantage of their patients (Jones, 1998).
Although the physicians are only supposed to prescribe to the patients the best drugs in the market capable of healing them, some physicians are influenced by the drug manufacturing companies to prescribe certain drugs. In such a case, the physician is not interested by the well being of the patient but on marketing the drugs for certain drug manufacturers.
Therefore, the patients end up not receiving the best drugs available in the market since the decisions of their physicians are greatly influenced by some drug manufacturers. In most cases, patients disclose confidential information to their physicians. According to the codes of ethics, the physicians are not supposed to reveal such information to anyone without the patient’s consent. However, some physicians end disclosing such confidential information thus infringing the patient’s rights (Elliott, 2006).
The board of directors in any organization is responsible for making decisions and formulating policies for the entire organization. They therefore have to consider the interests of each and every stakeholder within the organization. The decisions and the policies formulated by the board of directors should reflect the interests of the patients, physicians, subordinate staff and any other stakeholder. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as the board of directors at times makes decisions and formulates policies that are not capable of benefiting all the stakeholders. When the board of directors fails to consider all the stakeholders when they are making crucial decisions, they end up bringing about major conflicts of interest (Chinyio, 2010).
In most cases, conflicts of interest arise as parties seek ways and means of making personal gains at the expense of the other parties. There are however few instances when conflicts of interest arise without any aim of a direct personal gain on the part of the party causing the conflict. Such conflicts are mostly brought about by parties desiring to make a certain point clear to another party.
Such conflicts can also be brought about by one party whose main aim is to cause some damage to the other party with no intention of benefiting. A good example of such conflict is when a physician discloses confidential information about a patient and yet there is no direct personal gain on the part of the physician for disclosing such information (Morrison & Monagle, 2009).
In organizational governance, the shareholders play a critical role through the directors and other office holders they elect or appoint to various positions. The shareholders are the providers of capital which is used in running the organization. They therefore take the greatest risk since it is their investments that are used in running the organization. For an organization to run properly, the board of directors plays a very vital role.
The board of directors has the duty of making crucial decisions as well as formulating policies for the entire organization. The decisions and policies made by the board of directors thus give the organization some sense of direction. The management and the officers to an organization are important to an organization in that they are the main link between the shareholders and the board of directors. They are responsible for ensuring that the decisions and policies made by the board of directors are followed for the optimal benefit of the organization’s shareholders (Chinyio, 2010).
The board of directors has a duty of loyalty to the entire organization. This is due to the fact that the directors are responsible for making very crucial decisions and policies. Being loyal to the organization thus enables the directors to make decisions and policies which are in the best interest of the organization. The shareholders of an organization exercise their authority and power through the board of directors. The directors thus have a duty of care to not only the shareholders but also to the entire organization. Since the entire organization is entrusted on them, they have an ethical obligation of ensuring that they always make decisions in the best interest of the organization (Jones, 1998).
The relationship between patients and physicians is probably the most significant in a hospital set up. It should therefore be handled with a lot of care and in the best interest of both the physician and the patient. Both the physician and the patient should avoid actions and behaviors that are likely to bring about a conflict of interest. Physicians play a great role in an organization and thus should relate well with the management of the organization. Since the management has the responsibility of ensuring that various decisions and policies are implemented, the physicians should liaise with the management in ensuring that the organization runs smoothly.
The physicians play a critical role in the implementation of the decisions and policies made by the directors. The two parties should thus have a warm relationship in order to complement each other in the running of the organization (Kassirer, 2001).
Conflict of interest is one of the major challenges facing the healthcare sector around the world and is thus a major barrier to the delivery of medical services. The conflicts of interest are mainly controlled by codes of conduct and ethics whose main purpose is to minimize such conflicts. Various stakeholders in the healthcare sector have significant duties to the organization and staff. The main stakeholders include, shareholders, board of directors, officers and management. In order to significantly reduce the conflict of interest in an organization, all the stakeholders must be ethical in all their behaviors and actions.
Chinyio, E. (2010): Construction Stakeholder Management, ISBN 1405180986, John Wiley and Sons.
Elliott, C. (2006): The Drug Pushers: As America Turns its Health-Care System over to the Market, Pharmaceutical Reps Are Wielding More and More Influence-And the Line between Them and Doctors Is Beginning to Blur, Magazine article of The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 297
Jones, G.D. (1998): Primum Non Nocere: the Expanding “honest Services” Mail Fraud Statute and the Physician-patient Fiduciary Relationship, Journal article of Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 51
Kassirer, J.P. (2001): Financial Conflict of Interest: an Unresolved Ethical Frontier, Journal article of American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 27
Morrison, E.E. & Monagle, J.F. (2009): Health care ethics: critical issues for the 21st century, ISBN 076374526X, Jones & Bartlett Learning