Vantage Point: Should prescribing behavior be private?

What data about healthcare provider behavior should be private? 
Given the overall increases in healthcare costs, should data about individual physicians be subject to the same heightened levels of privacy we apply to patients? Should we be able to know whether a given physician treats more of a certain type of patient, or generates better outcomes or does so at a lower cost? How about when that physician is receiving public funding (Medicare or Medicaid)? 

Several states have successfully implemented restrictions on prescriber-identifiable data by arguing that in their view, public interest is served because the use of prescriber-identifiable data increases healthcare costs. The problem with this approach is that it is selective and arbitrary. The fact that the prescriber-identifiability argument succeeds in the absence of the states putting forth any empiric data (and with existing data that shows a contrary conclusion) underscores the risks inherent when policy is made without solid data and research.

Only when there is true transparency for all stakeholders, including patients, to evaluate relative costs, benefits and influences will there be real progress in reforming healthcare delivery. 

For those of us in pharma marketing research, the need to have better data and techniques is critical as we confront comparative-effectiveness research and the implementation of performance-based payment models. We need to rapidly develop nontraditional ways to measure physician behavior and to be well-versed in ways to show the overall economic benefits of our products if we are going to be persuasive.

The only option is to find ourselves outclassed by other parties in the healthcare reform debate.

Andrew Kress is CEO of SDI

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