Monday, January 23, 2012

Physician Payment Sunshine Act: More marginal thinking

It never ceases to amaze me how we gravitate to the margins in our thinking: margins seem to have a centrifugal force that is nearly impossible to overcome in today's political discourse. Yet the truth almost always lies at the center, the place that does not generate Op-Eds or produce votes.

I have said this before, and I will say it again: industry-physician relationship is not all bad or all good, there is no one within this relationship that is all bad or all evil, and it does not always benefit or always harm patients! The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle. Contrary to Stossel's thesis, there is plenty to worry about with respect to corruption promoted by the big money exchanging hands between Pharma and doctors. On the other hand, just because there are instances of corruption and its consequences, not all interaction, financial or otherwise, is counterproductive. I am the first to admit that the much-touted innovation in medicine is rare, and we have largely given up its pursuit in favor of predictable markets and returns. Yet without a robust and transparent collaboration between industry and practitioners there is not only little hope of innovation, but any innovation that may stand a chance is likely to be irrelevant.

Yes, I agree with Stossel that the new reporting regulation is overly punitive and will inevitably result in undue administrative burden. But it would be disingenuous of me to disagree with the fundamental idea that there needs to be at least some degree of transparency in the financial dealings between industry and clinicians, if only to avoid the appearance by the docs of serving two masters.

As in everything in life, the devil is in the details. And it is these details that get buried by the gravitational pull of peripheral thinking and discourse. The solution? How about we stop paying attention to these marginal fallacies and start putting our heads together for real to solve these significant problems? How about we start a rational discussion about what is best for the people and not for the corporations or the economy or reputations? The discussion has been subverted by extremism. It is time to give in to the centripetal pull of reason.