Since 2000, the AMA has been hearing from its members about the obtrusive techniques of sales representatives in their offices. By 2003, said Mr. Musacchio, the pressure on the AMA to do something to protect physician privacy was overwhelming. The group conducted an extensive telephone survey of close to 7000 physicians across the country, including both AMA members and non-members. There was a lot of confusion among doctors about how this information was being used and what could be done about it, he said. What came through clearly in the survey was that physicians overwhelmingly felt that they should have the option to keep their records private, he added.
Explore This IssueAugust 2006
Other medical groups had also expressed concerns to the AMA about the sharing of this information. The American College of Physicians (ACP) expressed its concerns to both the AMA and to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2003. ACP said in a letter to the OIG that, The sale of physician prescribing habits by pharmacists to outside parties is a common practice and can unduly influence medical choices by physicians. The group representing internists and medical students further asked the federal government to promulgate regulations ensuring the confidentiality of this data and proscribing its sale or release to outside parties.
Mr. Musacchio said much of the concern expressed by physicians about the sharing of prescribing data is tied more to the individual practices of sales representatives rather than the actual sharing of this data. In addition to making it possible for individual physicians to opt out of this information sharing, he said the AMA will also initiate education on responsible use of the data to pharmaceutical companies and HIOs-and to physician groups on the benefits of sharing prescribing data.
The PDRP is described in an editorial in the AMA publication American Medical News as, a painless way for physicians to push back. The AMA said it has never compiled or sold physician prescribing data. Mr. Musacchio explains that HIOs routinely obtain prescribing data from pharmacies, claims processors, and pharmacy benefit managers and append the data to a variety of physician databases including the AMA’s Masterfile. This compiled data is then packaged and licensed to the pharmaceutical industry. According to AMA, prescribing data used by HIOs are subject to HIPAA privacy requirements and do not contain patient identifiable information.