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)
Mining Open Payments Data: Analysis of Industry Payments to Thoracic Surgeons From 2014-2016
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 â€œapical dominanceâ€ 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.
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