Physi­cian-in­dus­try team­work ad­vances care

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT - By Dr. Robert E. Har­baugh

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.

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