Physician-industry teamwork advances care
Later this year, the CMS will start publishing data listing monetary interactions between physicians and biomedical companies as part of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. What will the headlines say?
Physicians will have 45 days to review data reported about them and confirm their accuracy before the information is released to the public in September. To review this data, physicians must register with the CMS. Registration is expected to be available this summer. When the data are available, physicians will need to take advantage of the brief window of time they’ll have to make sure the information is factual.
What’s concerning is how interactions between physicians and biopharmaceutical or medical-device companies will be reported in the news media. During my 30-year career, collaboration between industry and neurosurgeons has been responsible for most of the advances in neurosurgical care. However, it would be hard to know this from news coverage of the work between physicians and business. It is rare that one reads a story about the benefits of these interactions. It is far more common to hear of the rare cases where these relationships have been abused.
It is essential to maintain a system that fosters collaboration between physicians and industry if we want to continue to improve the quality of care. Because this system can be abused, our collaboration needs to be guided by one clear principle: As physicians, our paramount goal is to provide the highest quality of care to our patients. This principle must override any desire for academic advancement, recognition or profit. Abuses must certainly be reported, but the public needs to know the full story.
Let’s make sure our patients and our communities are informed. They need to know that most of the advances that make neurosurgery safer and more effective now than it was decades ago came in large part through collaboration between physicians and industry. Many other specialties have benefited from similar relationships. That is why my organization is part of Partners for Healthy Dialogues, which provides information about how physician-industry interactions improve patient care.
When the CMS publishes its database, expect plenty of news coverage. Let’s hope the reports won’t ignore the benefits of physician-industry partnerships.
Dr. Robert E. Harbaugh is president of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.