Public Awareness of and Contact With Physicians Who Receive Industry Payments: A National Survey

In the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Genevieve Kanter and colleagues investigate public awareness and physicians’ perceptions of industry payments to doctors. As part of the Affordable Care Act, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are now required to report payments that they make to health care providers to a database called Open Payments. This provision was partially motivated by concerns that industry payments could sway physicians’ decisions on patient care, and that patients may not know about these payments when selecting a provider. The authors conducted a nationally representative survey of more than 3,500 American adults regarding their contact with physicians reported in Open Payments, and linked respondents’ physicians to Open Payments data. The authors analyzed respondents’ contacts with physicians reported to have received industry payments, their awareness of these payments, and knowledge of whether their own physician received industry payments. Of the nearly 2,000 respondents matched to a physician, 65% saw a physician who had received an industry payment during the previous 12 months, higher than the physician estimate of 41%. Only 12% of survey respondents knew that payment information was publicly available, and only 5% knew whether their own doctor had received payments. The authors conclude that patient contact with physicians who receive industry payments is more prevalent than physicians perceive. Very few Americans know whether their own doctor has received industry payments or are aware that payment information is publicly available.