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Public disclosure of physician-industry ties part of a new trend in transparency

Posted Jan 23 2009 4:33pm

Led by academic institutions, numerous healthcare organizations have instituted public disclosure requirements. This week, Minneapolis-based Park Nicollet Health Services became the first Minnesota healthcare system to require its physicians to publicly disclose their relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device companies.  

As of this week, all 1,400 doctors in Park Nicollet’s network are required to submit for public view the fees received for speaking engagements, consulting, working on research projects, travel expenses, as well as the dollar value of gifts. Park Nicollet is one of the largest multispecialty clinics in the nation. The public can view the relationships individual physicians have with health care companies at a“Conflicts of Interest”disclosure page on the Park Nicollet web site.  

Why does it matter? 

Amid drug and device safety concerns and widespread reports aboutoverprescribingof certain medications, there’s growing concern about the industry’s influence on prescribing and treatment decisions. 

Tighter disclosure rules will also be taken up by Congress once new recommendations are cleared by the Office of Management and Budget. Last November, theMedicare Payment Advisory Commission(MedPAC) approvedfive recommendationsrelating to public reporting of physician financial relationships. The draft recommendations have been criticized by theAmerican Hospital Associationand others as being too expensive to implement at a time when all sectors are facing a capitol crunch.

Increasing disclosures is not expected to hurt physician practices. A 2006 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 8,000 patients in Massachusetts and California who received written dislosure statements in the mail actually developed stronger loyalty toward their physicians. Their level of trust toward their physician remained unchanged.

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