Maintenance Notice

Due to necessary scheduled maintenance, the JMIR Publications website will be unavailable from Monday, March 11, 2019 at 4:00 PM to 4:30 PM EST. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Who will be affected?


Currently accepted at: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Date Submitted: Jul 22, 2018
Open Peer Review Period: Jul 23, 2018 - Aug 16, 2018
Date Accepted: Oct 25, 2018
(closed for review but you can still tweet)

This paper has been accepted and is currently in production.

It will appear shortly on 10.2196/11655

The final accepted version (not copyedited yet) is in this tab.

The final, peer-reviewed published version of this preprint can be found here:

Mining Open Payments Data: Analysis of Industry Payments to Thoracic Surgeons From 2014-2016

Na X, Guo H, Zhang Y, Shen L, Wu S, Li J

Mining Open Payments Data: Analysis of Industry Payments to Thoracic Surgeons From 2014-2016

J Med Internet Res 2018;20(11):e11655

DOI: 10.2196/11655

PMID: 30504119

PMCID: 6294877

Mining Open Payments Data: Analysis of Industry Payments to Thoracic Surgeons From 2014-2016

  • Xu Na; 
  • Haihong Guo; 
  • Yu Zhang; 
  • Liu Shen; 
  • Sizhu Wu; 
  • Jiao Li



The financial relationship between physicians and industries has become a hotly debated issue globally. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act of the US Affordable Care Act (2010) promoted transparency of the transactions between industries and physicians by making remuneration data publicly accessible in the Open Payments Program database. Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization, the majority of all noncommunicable disease deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease.


This study aimed to investigate the distribution of non-research and non-ownership payments made to thoracic surgeons, to explore the regularity of financial relationships between industries and thoracic surgeons.


Annual statistical data were obtained from the Open Payments Program general payment dataset from 2014-2016. We characterized the distribution of annual payments with single payment transactions greater than US $10,000, quantified the major expense categories (eg, Compensation, Consulting Fees, Travel and Lodging), and identified the 30 highest-paying industries. Moreover, we drew out the financial relations between industries to thoracic surgeons using chord diagram visualization.


The three highest categories with single payments greater than US $10,000 were Royalty or License, Compensation, and Consulting Fees. Payments related to Royalty or License transferred from only 5.38% of industries to 0.75% of surgeons with the highest median (US $13,753, $11,992, and $10,614 respectively) in 3-year period. In contrast, payments related to Food and Beverage transferred from 93.50% of industries to 98.48% of surgeons with the lowest median (US $28, $27, and $27). The top 30 highest-paying industries made up approximately 90% of the total payments (US $21,036,972, $23,304,996, and $28,116,336). Furthermore, just under 9% of surgeons received approximately 80% of the total payments in each of the 3 years. Specifically, the 100 highest cumulative payments, accounting for 52.69% of the total, transferred from 27 (6.05%) pharmaceutical industries to 86 (1.89%) thoracic surgeons from 2014-2016; 7 surgeons received payments greater than US $1,000,000; 12 surgeons received payments greater than US $400,000. The majority (90%) of these surgeons received tremendous value from only one industry.


There exists a great discrepancy in the distribution of payments by categories. Royalty or License Fees, Compensation, and Consulting Fees are the primary transferring channels of single large payments. The massive transfer from industries to surgeons has a strong “apical dominance” and excludability. Further research should focus on discovering the fundamental driving factors for the strong concentration of certain medical devices and how these payments will affect the industry itself.


Please cite as:

Na X, Guo H, Zhang Y, Shen L, Wu S, Li J

Mining Open Payments Data: Analysis of Industry Payments to Thoracic Surgeons From 2014-2016

Journal of Medical Internet Research. (forthcoming/in press)

DOI: 10.2196/11655


PMID: 30504119

PMCID: 6294877

Per the author's request the PDF is not available.

© The authors. All rights reserved. This is a privileged document currently under peer-review/community review (or an accepted/rejected manuscript). Authors have provided JMIR Publications with an exclusive license to publish this preprint on it's website for review and ahead-of-print citation purposes only. While the final peer-reviewed paper may be licensed under a cc-by license on publication, at this stage authors and publisher expressively prohibit redistribution of this draft paper other than for review purposes.