How should doctors disclose conflicts of interest to patients? A focus group investigation

J. Michael Oakes, Hilary K. Whitham, Alicen B.urns Spaulding, Lynn A. Zentner, Seth R. Beccard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Disclosure is often proposed as a strategy for handling financial conflicts of interest in medicine. Yet there has been no guidance on how clinicians should disclose potential conflicts of interest to patients. To discern patients' attitudes toward conflicts of interest in medicine and their opinions about how physicians should disclose possible conflicts in the clinical setting, we conducted six focus groups with patients recruited from three clinics in the Twin Cities area. Investigators reviewed audio recordings of the focus group discussions independently and identified themes. Maintaining patient-doctor trust was critical to all study participants. Most wanted to know only about conflicts of interest that were directly relevant to their care. In addition, most participants said physicians and other health care providers should offer patients an easy-to-read document about any conflict of interest during clinic check-ins and bring up the subject when discussing specific treatment plans for which the conflict of interest is relevant. Our study offers the first insights into patient attitudes toward and opinions about disclosure practices in clinical settings. More research into the practical aspects of managing conflicts of interest is needed as ineffective disclosure may undermine patients' trust in their doctors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-41
Number of pages4
JournalMinnesota medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


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