Physician-Industry Partnerships: Advancing the Practice of Medicine in the Modern Age
You might be surprised to learn the number of technologies that are used every day in retina clinics that were conceived by a physician and developed through close partnership with industry. Optical coherence tomography is the most widely utilized example. In addition, physicians also invented many of the surgical instruments and technologies used in vitreoretinal surgery. In many cases, surgeons played a crucial role not only in the invention of technology but also in the development of innovations, to make them more practical or relevant for daily use.
It makes a lot of sense for physicians to play a pivotal role and partner with industry in the innovation cycle. From our position as deliverers of care, we have a unique perspective to recognize gaps in existing technologies; because we are interacting with patients on a daily basis, we have an intimate knowledge of what expectations for outcomes are; and through our medical training and experience, we have expertise in terms of what may be safe or effective for routine use.
Given the productive nature of these relationships until now, it is a shame that physician-industry relationships have come under intense scrutiny in recent years. The goal of recent legislation to curtail industry-physician relationships is to stop a small percentage of doctors that abuse their power and allow industry to influence their treatment of patients. Restrictions in these cases protect patients—a positive and needed regulatory step. But we have to be certain that we do not completely crush the healthy interactions between industry and doctors that lead to innovation, which is a benefit to patients and medicine in general.
In this issue of New Retina MD, we take a look at how physician-industry relationships work and why they are so important for advancing our field. This is a topic we hope to revisit in future issues, because we will only grow as a profession by continually striving to advance and improve the type of care we can deliver. There is, in fact, nothing undesirable about wanting to make our practices better, and in turn, improving the kinds of outcomes we can offer patients. n