Physician transparency has been a hot-button issue for some time now. While some believe that transparency in the medical field is the best way to gain the trust of patients, others argue that it leaves medical facilities vulnerable and that sharing too much information can scare away future patients. A few recent shifts in the medical field have increased transparency, forcing many doctors to take a step back and decide just how transparent they’re comfortable being when interacting with patients.
Physician Payments Sunshine Act
The Physician Payments Act was on of the biggest steps that medical practices took towards physician transparency. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act is designed to increase transparency around the financial relationships between physicians, teaching hospitals and manufacturers of drugs, medical devices and biologics. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) fulfills the law’s mandate via the Open Payments Program.
This basically means that all healthcare professionals must submit forms that show exactly how their money is being spent and what it’s being spent for. The open payments also allow the government to monitor facilities for fraudulent claims as well as manufacturers that might be trying to hike up the prices for a drug that’s in demand. While many (especially customers) believe this act provides necessary physician transparency, others believe that this is unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy that oftentimes takes time away from actually treating patients.
Patients and Notes
Recently, many physicians have taken a new approach to transparency when it comes to diagnosing and treating patients. They’re letting patients look at their notes.
While it’s normal to doctors to share some of the basic notes written down during an observation, they’re now going digital by actually sharing their EHRs and other files with their patients via the web. EHRs aren’t essential, as some physicians have been printing notes out and sharing them with patients for years. But, recently EHR vendors have embraced the cause making it easier to share information with patients and they have also helped spread the movement to other hospitals in the country. Large vendors Epic and Cerner include a feature that allows physicians to share notes seamlessly without interrupting their workflow. Other vendors, like eClinical Works, plan on easier information sharing in the future. Turning the feature on doesn’t cost a cent for hospitals.
The Good and Bad of Physician Transparency
While physician transparency has been a very polarizing subject, it’s important to look at both sides of the spectrum. Like most issues, there are two different sides that offer both good and bad reasons for implementing physician transparency. Here are just a few examples of how it can help and hurt physicians and patients.
GOOD – Comforting Patients
Many patients will naturally feel more comfortable if a physician is open and honest with them. The ability to view exactly how their doctor is diagnosing and treating them will ease their mind. Knowing that their doctor understands them is a huge comfort for many patients, and transparency can help build a stronger bond between physician and patient.
GOOD – Keeping Professionals in Check
Probably the biggest reason for this transparency is to ensure that healthcare professionals are constantly monitored to deter any wrongdoing. Although we don’t like to insinuate any malpractice, there are cases in which physicians and other professionals take advantage of their position or try to cut corners. Transparency will ensure that no funny business is going on behind closed doors.
BAD – Paperwork, Paperwork, and More Paperwork
One of the biggest downsides of physician transparency is the amount of paperwork that must be completed by physicians and other healthcare professionals. Time spent actually examining patients is often spent logging into computer programs and updating various charts and files. Some patients actually prefer to be kept in the dark, opting to ignore the doctor jargon and instead focus solely on getting healthy.
BAD – Reputations Can Rub Off
Many don’t often think about this point, but reputations have a tendency to rub off on those around them. If a company is seen as shady or spending money on unnecessary expenses, this might change the opinion of the doctors, nurses, and anyone else associated with the practice. A hardworking, competent doctor could become wrongly labeled simply because the hospital they worked for is engaging in shady spending tactics. While transparency can be a good thing, it can also poorly shed light on the wrong people