Published 6/1/2007
Richard N. Peterson, JD

Fellowship adopts new Standards of Professionalism

Bylaws amendments, resolutions also endorsed

The ballots are in and the votes have been counted. By an overwhelming majority, AAOS fellows adopted recommendations on six resolutions, five proposed changes to the AAOS Bylaws, and two new Standards of Professionalism (SOPs)—on Advertising by Orthopaedic Surgeons and Orthopaedist-Industry Conflicts of Interest. This brings the number of SOPs in the AAOS Professional Compliance Program to six.

At the time of the 2007 balloting, the AAOS had 21,154 active, emeritus, and inactive fellows eligible to vote. Ballots and information on voting were delivered by fax and mail.

Votes were tallied by AAOS research department staff. All valid online and fax submissions received prior to midnight on April 19 were included. Mailed ballots that were postmarked by April 18 and received by noon on April 23 were also included.

Response statistics
A total of 5,549 valid ballots were received, for a 26 percent response rate. A minimum 20 percent of the fellowship is required for balloting to be legitimate.

Nearly two thirds (60 percent) of respondents selected the “all yes” option, while the remainder voted on items individually. No measure received less than an 83 percent approval rate (Table 1).

Professional Compliance Program
The new SOPs on Advertising by Orthopaedic Surgeons include a broad definition of advertising, as follows: “any activity in which an orthopaedic surgeon pays in any way, including providing services in exchange for advertising, to communicate with the public.” They prohibit the inclusion of false or misleading information, photos, or other images, and endorsements or other statements.

They also require an orthopaedic surgeon to approve all advertisements regarding his or her practice before the ad is disseminated, or to make a reasonable effort to ensure that statements made by an academic institution, hospital, or other entity, on his or her behalf, are not false or misleading. The SOPs on advertising applies only to advertisements that appear on or after April 18, 2007. The complete text of the SOPs on Advertising by Orthopaedic Surgeons can be found beginning on page 48.

The SOPs on Orthopaedist-Industry Conflicts of Interest require orthopaedic surgeons to disclose any conflicts of interest; define the limitations on gifts, subsidies, and financial support; specify the requirements for consulting agreements; define the industry support permitted for continuing medical education; and encourage independent reporting of research results. Enforcement of this SOP will begin with acts occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2008, to enable the AAOS to conduct an educational program.

Alleged violations of the SOPs may form the basis for a formal grievance filed under the AAOS Professional Compliance Program. Under the bylaws, only fellows and members may file grievances against other fellows and members. Specific questions about grievances may be sent to either aaosexpertwitness@aaos.org or professionalcompliance@aaos.org.

Additional information about the AAOS Professional Compliance Program, the SOPs, the Committee on Professionalism, and the Judiciary Committee is available online at http://www3.aaos.org/procom