It has been a while since ProPublica came out with a list of physicians who receive money from the pharmaceutical or medical device industry. They began posting their new list of physicians who get the greatest reimbursement to the outrage of some who saw their Twitter post. They also posted their updated Vital Signs search engine that allows anyone to search for how much money a physician receives as payments from the pharmaceutical or medical device industry. I was able to locate my profile (it is not always easy) and it is readable. I do it when they post an update just to make sure there are no errors. I don't accept money from anybody and also don't attended sponsored free CME courses because that is also listed as a benefit from whoever is sponsoring the course.
Although they are using a practice address I have not had for over 9 years (it is blurred but available on the ProPublica site) - when I was at that site I saw many Medicare and Medicaid patients. At one point those were the only patients I was treating. The disclaimers written on this page need clarification. I am currently working 4 days a week and for me that is at least a 45-50 hour week and seeing full schedules of patients. The reason ProPublica has no information on my medical practice is that I receive no payments from the medical device or pharmaceutical industry, but you don't know that for sure by reading this information and the disclaimers. The introduction to the new database update gives an example of the reporter searching on the names of his primary care MD and the consultants he has seen. He looks at the report of payments in terms of royalty or licensing fees, promotional speaking, consulting, travel and lodging reimbursement, and food and beverage reimbursement. What he does not say is what these figures mean to him.
I have written about this database in the past in terms of what it does and does not mean. Over the past decade these payments were used as an easy way to discredit physicians, in some cases entire specialties. Psychiatry and psychiatrists were at the top of the list, despite the fact that according to ProPublica they were ranked well below most other specialties in terms of medical industry payments. The furor seems to have diminished as physicians are now subject to more rigorous payment reporting than politicians. In modern society - it seems that the illusion of transparency is all that is required to satisfy the moral outrage of the public. After all - we have politicians who are actively engaged is legislating issues that affect their top campaign contributors. There could probably not be a more significant conflict of interest and nobody bats an eye.
Despite the unrealistic idea that physicians are easily influenced and are in lock step to treating their patients according to orders from the pharmaceutical and medical device industry - this database serves a symbolic purpose. That is - personal treatment from your physician will somehow be better now that all of these payments are known. You might make value judgments about physicians on that basis, but it would probably be a mistake. Physicians should be paid for their work and their intellectual property. As a group they end up giving far too much of it away. And the largest conflict of interest affecting personal medical care is not mentioned in this database. That is how your insurance company, managed care organization, or pharmaceutical benefit manager rations your care and tells your physician what they must prescribe, what tests to order, and how they can treat you if they want to remain an employee or get reimbursed. Don't expect to see those numbers anytime soon. And by the way - that rationed care adds at least a trillion dollars to the health care budget - just as a jobs program for administrators and it skims an unknown (but probably large) percentage off the treatment your physician really wants to provide.
In the meantime - remember that this blogger is beholden to no one.
I discussed some critical issues when a Presidential appointee stood to make massive profits while in the Executive Branch. Although that deal fell through, the President himself has made an estimated $2.3 billion in profits while sitting in the Oval Office. This is the same President that provided massive tax cuts to businesses and massive rollbacks in environmental regulations on businesses. In the meantime, physicians accepting $10 worth of pharmaceutical or medical device company pizza are reported to the payments database.
Should $10 worth of pizza be a red flag for anything?