This is guest blog post by Joanna Brownstein, Director of Customer Operations at Kyruus.
Do you know what is in the public domain about the physicians at your institution? If not, you need to. Here’s why:
Other people know about it - Media outlets such as ProPublica are actively scouring the web for information about physicians’ interactions with industry. They make this information available to the public, and actively work with journalists to highlight stories about physicians who receive large payments from industry. No institution likes to be caught off guard and end up as front-page news. Armed with publicly available data, one compliance officer we know was able to successfully educate a reporter about her physicians’ interactions. As a result they were not included in the news story, the ideal outcome from her perspective. As David Hood commented in his recent blog post, industry collaboration is essential for continued innovation in health care. Interactions such as product development, participation in scientific advisory boards, and clinical trials show healthy knowledge transfer between physicians and the companies that make life saving products.
No matter what you think, you don’t have all of the information - Many hospitals and medical schools feel like they have a pretty good handle on what their physicians are doing. However, if you rely on self-reported processes you are likely not getting the full story. We recently did a pilot with a large academic medical center to compare the information they collected directly from physicians to the data that were publicly available about the same docs. We found over 50% more interactions in the public domain than the physicians had reported. This is not too far out of line with published research on the subject. Being armed with publicly available information will allow you to have meaningful conversations with physicians and to identify the cause of such discrepancies.
Some of the data in the public domain is incorrect - Some of the information reported by industry is incorrect, and you and your physicians should be armed with the information to get the errors fixed. I recently spoke with a compliance officer from a specialty hospital, who found an industry disclosure for one of her physicians was incorrect. Armed with that information, the physician was able to contact the company and rectify the error.
The amount of data in the public domain will increase exponentially as the Physician Payment Sunshine Act comes into effect. As a result, others will have access to information about your institution's physicians that you may not have access to with your current methods. Make sure to include searches of publicly available data in your toolbox, to ensure you are prepared to manage industry interactions and potential conflicts of interest effectively.
Register for the upcoming webinar, Industry Interactions in the Age of Transparency - Making Public Data Work for You, on January 19. Former Chief Compliance Officer, Leon Goldman, MD will share his perspective on being proactive by mining public data.