Goal 3: Don’t discourage innovation
When discussing this issue, it’s easy for physicians of even the highest ethics to understand that the data might provide a misleading picture of their work with drug or device manufacturers. This work is surely necessary on some level in order to innovate, and compensation for the work is only fair.
Physicians and manufacturers are rightly worried that any financial relationship, simply by being publicly listed, encourages the presumption that these relationships are by definition unethical. However, the fact that somebody is watching is often enough to prevent most ethical lapses in instances like this. Transparency never hurt anybody but the ones who are trying to hide behind everyone else’s good name.
Let’s leave aside, for a moment, the potential consumer/patient use of this data. Hospitals and health systems that are trying to get a handle on supply costs would surely make good use of the data. Would it not be helpful, for instance, for a hospital CEO who’s pushing supply chain optimization to know whether her top heart surgeon has a development deal with Medtronic or if her top orthopedic surgeon has a consulting relationship with Stryker?
Such information, taken alone, doesn’t suggest anything improper or unethical is going on, but the very fact that it will be reported might strike a little fear into anyone who might be tempted to provide preferential treatment to manufacturers who sign their checks.