Sermo and AMA break ties, trade insults
An AMA spokesperson described the initial partnership as an “in-kind relationship…no money was exchanged,” indicating that new terms were proposed by Sermo after the partnership expired. Upon reviewing the new terms, AMA decided that the “value wasn't there,” according to the spokesperson, who pointed to an official statement on KevinMD.com: “After an evaluation of the initial relationship with Sermo, we have decided that the value was not there to justify the investment of AMA members' dues dollars.”
According to Daniel Palestrant, founder and CEO of Sermo, AMA broke its contractual agreement to Sermo physicians by reneging on access to its journals and other resources “within the first week [of the partnership].” The initial agreement between Sermo and AMA, said Palestrant, hinged on access to those resources, as well as advocacy on behalf of Sermo's physicians, in exchange for full access to Sermo members.
When the partnership expired in May, AMA was “remarkably uninterested” in the opinions of Sermo docs concerning healthcare reform. “AMA was not willing to advocate, or even engage with [Sermo physicians],” said Palestrant. “If [AMA] is not willing to make an effort, then we charge what we charge other clients.”
In a screed published on Sermo's blog, Palestrant wrote that the AMA has “failed [physicians] consistently for over 50 years.” The letter went on to accuse AMA of profiteering on license fees for its Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) coding system, and a general opacity regarding the association's true membership numbers.
In a comments section on Sermo's website dedicated to the split, Joeseph Heyman, a board of trustees member at AMA, disputed Palestrant's claim about an AMA membership decline, writing that “AMA membership numbers are public information, and there has been no precipitous decline…over the last two years.” Heyman also questioned Palestrant's “sudden change of heart” regarding the AMA.
“He ardently courted the AMA when launching his business two years ago, and now he expresses scorn immediately following the end of [the] business relationship,” Heyman wrote in the comments.
Sermo published a survey yesterday culled from 4,156 members of its 100,000 physician community, which found that “75% of physicians surveyed are not members of the AMA; 89% of physicians claim ‘The AMA does not speak for me'; and 91% of physicians surveyed do not believe the AMA accurately reflects their opinion as physicians.” Speaking on the survey results, Palestrant said: “Physicians think AMA increasingly exists for its own benefit.”
“We're not the ones throwing stones,” an AMA spokesperson said. “This conflict has been promoted by Sermo.”