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Open Payments Program

Open Payments Data in Context

Open Payments gives the public more information about the financial relationships between physicians and teaching hospitals and applicable manufacturers and GPOs. Specifically, the program:

  • Encourages transparency about these financial ties.
  • Provides information on the nature and extent of the relationships.
  • Helps to identify relationships that can both lead to the development of beneficial new technologies and wasteful healthcare spending.
  • Helps to prevent inappropriate influence on research, education and clinical decision making.

Some examples of appropriate interactions include :

  • Advancing Medical Knowledge – Research to develop new treatments and improve patient care is costly. It takes time and money to carry out clinical trials and get demonstrated new therapies through the approval process and into clinical use. Physicians in academic medical centers and other organizations receive funding from the industry as investigators in clinical research and as consultants who help design and evaluate clinical trials or develop new medical technologies. In some cases, industry support for multiple projects is reported under the name of the academic dean or program director, which can make it seem as if the individual received a large dollar amount from industry when in fact the money financed the cost of the clinical trial and was distributed to several endeavors actually led by other physician.
  • Advancing Physician Knowledge – The industry also supports physician education, and in some instances that will be reported as payments to individual physicians, even if the physicians are not aware. For example, a physician may receive an honorarium from his or her medical society for being on the faculty of an educational program put on by the society. If the society received a grant from the industry to help support the program, that honorarium may be reported as an indirect payment through the Open Payments system, even though the physician received the honorarium directly from the medical society and wasn’t aware of the industry support.

Continuing Medical Education courses funded by the industry as well as visits from pharmaceutical representatives to physician offices or health care organizations to talk about new research and treatment options can also supplement physicians’ knowledge about new advances in medicine. Additionally, the industry sometimes provides physicians with reprints of peer-reviewed medical journal articles and medical textbooks, which likewise help physicians stay abreast of the latest medical treatments.

*Excerpts from the AMA Guide for Media Reporting on “Open Payments” Data Release, June 30, 2015

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