Patients rely on the independence and trustworthiness of audiologists for any advice or treatment offered. A conflict of interest arises when an audiologist, entrusted with acting in the interests of a patient, also has financial, professional or personal interests, or relationships with third parties, which may affect their care of the patient.
Multiple interests are common. IAA members are audiologists who hold a financial interest in their practice and so are required to identify, carefully consider, disclose and be accountable for all their interests.
When interests compromise, or might reasonably be perceived by an independent observer to compromise the audiologist’s primary duty to the patient, IAA members must recognise and resolve this conflict in the best interests of the patient.
IAA members reduce the possibility of conflict of interest in the practices they operate by not paying commissions to staff for device sales or setting sales targets for their practices.
To manage potential conflicts of interest, IAA members:
- Inform patients of any interest that could affect, or could be perceived to affect audiological advice or care.
- Recognise that hearing device manufacturer or other marketing influences audiologists and be aware of the ways in which they and their staff may be being influenced.
- Recognise potential conflicts of interest in relation to the prescription and dispensing of hearing devices and appropriately act to reduce and manage any conflict that arises.
- Keep a documented gift policy that is available to the public on request. A gift policy should include the member’s guidelines for accepting gifts from manufacturers of audiological equipment and hearing devices. The member’s gift policy might also include guidelines for offering gifts or enticements.
- Never ask for or accept fees for meeting sales representatives.
- Never offer sales based commissions to staff that provide or could be perceived to provide inducements to staff for the sale of hearing devices.
- Reward staff according to overall productivity, not specific to device sales.
- Never allow any financial or commercial arrangement with a hearing device supplier to adversely affect the way audiological care is delivered.
- Inform patients of interests that might affect or be perceived to affect clinical judgement or advice.
- Are honest and transparent in financial arrangements with patients, not exploiting patients’ vulnerability or lack of audiological knowledge when providing or recommending treatment or services.
- Never encourage patients to give, lend or bequeath money or gifts that will benefit the member or practice directly or indirectly.
- Avoid financial involvement, such as loans and investment schemes, with patients.
- Never pressure patients or their families to make donations to other people or organisations.
- Are transparent in financial and commercial matters, including in dealings with funding bodies.
- Declare their financial interest in the practice when taking on a practitioner role.
- Declare any preferred supplier agreement that sets prices based on volume purchases from device suppliers for devices that are dispensed through the practice