(Picture from ProPublica Dollars for Doctors)
The release in late June of the Open Payments data for 2015, received very little media coverage but earlier that week Dollars for Doctors dropped a media bomb on the open payments data from the previous year by tying in hospital privileges to open payments. Below are examples of some of the stories that were written.
Becker's Hospital CFO did a short bit on the six states where the highest number of physicians accept payments from industry, citing a ProPublica analysis. The article also briefly noted that the analysis revealed some differences based on hospital ownership: for profit hospitals rate was higher compared to other hospitals, included federally owned hospitals (which had the lowest rate).
NPR had a blurb, as part of their "All Things Considered" show, and an accompanying article that discussed the ProPublica analysis overall, picking on doctors affiliated with hospitals in the South and doctors at for-profit hospitals.
USA Today picked on a small for-profit hospital on the outskirts of Memphis for their article on the ProPublica Analysis. Three reporters working for the USA Today Network – Tennessee wrote that St. Francis Hospital-Bartlett had the "highest rate of doctors who took payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, out of more than 2,000 hospitals across the nation." The authors do note that there is nothing illegal about taking such compensation, just citing to the "studies" that physicians are more likely to prescribe certain medications than those without relationships. The same article can be found on the website of The Tennessean, part of the USA Today Network.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting wrote an article about how Mississippi doctors are among the top five list for receiving payments from pharmaceutical companies, according to the ProPublica analysis. The article also picks a bit on Louisiana, stating Mississippi and Lousiana tie for third place nationwide for the overall number of doctors receiving payments.
Several California publications wrote about the analysis, including the Desert Sun. The article started out with a bold claim about Coachella Valley's hospitals and then gave a brief overview and noted that while this information has been public for quite some time, the recent ProPublica analysis is the first time the various open sources of payments have been used to look for variations between hospitals and doctors.
iNewsSource also covered the ProPublica analysis, explaining the wide variation across the country, with a bit of a focus on San Diego County.
An article on California Healthline covered the ProPublica report, with links to both of the above articles and noting that a hospital's owner is an important factor in whether a doctor meets with industry.
An article published in the Boston Globe, stated, "Years after many big academic medical centers cracked down in industry perks, drug companies still regularly buy meals for doctors affiliated with smaller hospitals." This article was based on a new analysis, done by the Globe in coordination with ProPublica, which matched data on company payments to doctors with Medicare data on the primary hospitals physicians were affiliated with that year.
Another article, written for Philly.com, was written on the same analysis, and called out a local cancer center for having a high rate of physicians who work with industry players. The article, to its credit, did also note that some of the hospitals involved did question the data and provided valid reasons for doing so, for example, Crozer-Keystone Health System disputed the number of affiliated doctors attributed to it.
A New England Public Radio blurb focused on physicians in West Massachusetts, and included a graphic of which states have the highest concentration, according to the ProPublica analysis, of doctors who take payments from industry.
The Springfield News-Leader published an article about the two largest health systems in Springfield and how one system forbids physicians from meeting with industry at lunch time and the other system, which does not have such a policy in place. The article then went through the policies and whether a meal is considered a "gift or down payment," and how systems also differ on free drug samples.
Indiana Public Media published a story, using the same graphic as was found in the New England Public Radio blurb above, also outlining the database and what it found for physicians in Indiana, noting "almost three out of four doctors in Indiana took a payment from a drug or device maker" in 2014.
Wyandotte Daily Online published an article on Kansas City-area hospitals and the large variations from system to system in how many doctors "accept money from drug and medical device companies." The article surmised that "much of the variation has to do with hospital policies governing such payments and how well they're enforced."
Conclusion, Part II
The media bomb is the most recent showing in a string of actions taken by ProPublica that they are trying to "black list" those working with industry. Few, if any, of the articles included any rationale or reasons why such industry coordination is not a good thing. As we have seen, ProPublica and others disagree that the way to future innovation and new medicines and devices is not through collaboration, but instead believes it is beneficial to put in place more restrictions, leading to less cooperation and coordination.