ROSSLYN, VA, November 1, 2006-What is common to commercial "relationship building" between a supplier and its customer in many commercial sectors can pose a substantial legal risk in the health care industry. Tickets to baseball games and Broadway shows, dinner at a top restaurant, trips to resorts, golf outings, free educational seminars, gifts, and free product samples are now the legendary subject matter of criminal indictments alleging Medicare fraud and violations of anti-kickback regulations. Other conduct, including charitable donations and research grants, are also under legal scrutiny.
Ethics guidelines that define proper conduct between vendors of imaging equipment and medical professionals who use or buy such equipment will be outlined at a conference program on November 29, 2006, at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago, Illinois. The session will feature a discussion of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association's (NEMA) Code of Ethics, developed in 2004 to help medical imaging suppliers and their customers understand their legal compliance obligations and to manage and avoid legal risk. Speakers will also address recent indictments and other legal actions brought by the government to enforce the Medicare and fraud laws. Attendees of the program will earn continuing medical education credit.
The program entitled "Dining With Doctors: The Only Industry Where Being Nice to Your Customer Can Land You in Jail," moderated by NEMA, and co-sponsored with the American College of Radiology, will be held on November 29, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., in Room S-404-CD in the South building at McCormick Place. The panel of speakers will include Dr. William Bradley, chairman of the Department of Radiology at the University of California, San Diego; Dr. John Pellerito, North Shore University Hospital, Department of Radiology, Manhasset, New York; Tom Hoffman, associate general counsel of the American College of Radiology; Linda Wawzenski, assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois; and Sheila Finnegan, formerly with the U.S. Attorney's Office and currently with the Chicago law firm of Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw.
The Code of Ethics represents industry's desire to ensure adherence to the government's anti-kickback and false claims laws, and gives guidance to NEMA member companies on how to interact with customers such as radiologists, cardiologists, and orthopedists. Because the law applies equally to both medical professionals and product suppliers, the guidelines are also valuable for health care professionals. The Code of Ethics provides assistance on handling issues dealing with entertainment, charitable contributions, research funding, travel expenses for training, and financial support for third party educational programs.
There are several forms of interaction between manufacturers and health care providers that play a key role in advancing medical science or improving patient care. "Establishing clear, widely agreed-upon ethical standards is critical to the medical device industry's ability to continue a healthy collaboration with health care professionals and institutions," says Clark Silcox, NEMA's legal counsel. A free copy of the Code of Ethics may be downloaded from NEMA's website at: http://www.nema.org/prod/med/.
NEMA is the trade association of choice for the electrical manufacturing industry. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its 430 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end-use of electricity. These products are used in utility, medical imaging, industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential applications. Domestic production of electrical products sold worldwide exceeds $120 billion. In addition to its headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia, NEMA also has offices in Beijing, São Paulo, and Mexico City.