All Animals Are Created Equal……But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others
Posted Jul 07 2010 9:03am
By Kester Freeman
Former CEO, Palmetto Health
You may wonder why a healthcare blog would feature a headline from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. But I think of this quote whenever I hear medical device industry bellyache about the need for fairness and transparency in healthcare– until it applies to them.
For years, a small group has been demanding that GPOs be more transparent about their finances, their contracts and their adherence to business ethics. But let’s dig a little deeper, and compare and contrast the transparency of the two industries’ ethics policies. The GPO ethics web site includes 30-40 pages of detailed information from each GPO describing their ethics policies and adherence to an industry code of conduct. There’s also a detailed annual report documenting compliance across all GPOs.
And now, the manufacturers.
One industry association, AdvaMed, does have a code of conduct on their web site. But, unlike the GPO industry’s ethics initiative, there’s no requirement to follow it – companies are merely “encouraged” to comply. There’s no detail on the individual companies’ adherence to the code, nor is there any sort of annual report detailing progress. In fact, AdvaMed’s entire code is shorter than the GPOs annual compliance questionnaire. Even worse, the Medical Device Manufacturers Association has no code of conduct whatsoever.
The call for transparency is misplaced when it comes to GPOs. But not when it comes to the device makers. What happens with no industry-wide ethical code? Just check out this scathing article in The Atlantic about how companies like Depuy Spine, Inc. continues to skirt new laws demanding disclosure of payments made to physicians. Or this one that shows what happens when doctors on the payroll question Zimmer Holdings’ company line. Or even this one that shows the tremendous influence medical device sales reps from companies like Kyphon and Medtronic have in the operating room.
But rather than take a critical look and initiate improvements that will avoid allegations of wrongdoing for the future, what happens instead? Instead, device makers make red herring counteraccusations against the one force in the market that’s working with hospitals to create more transparency and keep the playing field fair – the GPO.
They say a fair compromise has been reached when both parties walk away disappointed. But some manufacturers have hijacked the market so they can never lose! Like in Orwell, they want to talk about fairness but don’t want to actually live by those principles themselves.