The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a veritable treasure chest of government data about physicians potentially on the take from pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. The data is a welcome addition to the public’s knowledge. For some time ProPublica has operated the “Dollars for Docs” database that attempted to track and catalog the information that was publicly available about drug companies making payments to doctors and health care professionals under the guise of speeches, research and consultations. Now patients are able to view the information the government has collected on the physician(s) he or she is considering.
“Of course, doctors and hospitals have a financial interest in the treatment of their patients, healthcare is a business like any other, but what is important is that certain relationships be disclosed, specifically relationships where there is a direct financial relationship between the specific medications or products used to treat a patient and the doctor prescribing those products,” said Christoper Paulos, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio Law Firm. “It is not wrong for doctors to profit from researching medicine and providing quality care, and the transparency provided by the CMS OpenPayments program will further assist patients and healthcare providers in recognizing the various relationships involved in the healthcare they receive or provide.”
The provision that this information be disclosed was originally included in the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, as part of the Affordable Care Act, but has been delayed as the writing of the detailed rules for the governing of the release of the information has been held up.
While the system isn’t perfect, some data is not required to be disclosed, it is a step in the right direction and at least a recognition that this is information that patients have a right to know.