One researcher from George Washington University wants to take patient-doctor confidentiality to a whole new level. Dr. Leana Wen believes everything, from doctors' political affiliation to their stance on abortion, should be available to the public. Wen affirms that “This is the right thing to do” in order to help patients make the best decision when it comes to treatment options, but many argue that this is a complete invasion of privacy for information that could most probably be obtained by simply asking the doctor.
Not all doctors side how we'd like them to, and Wen wants these differences openly available to anyone who wishes to look. The GWU director of patient-centered care research has already devised a means to distribute this information: her recently launched website “Who’s My Doctor.” The site allows doctors to “sign a Total Transparency Manifesto and disclose what outside funding they receive,” Time reported.
For the record, such a website already exists. It’s called Dollars for Docs, and allows users to know exactly how much their health professional received from drug companies, listing amounts by state, drug company, and individual professional. Wen’s website also asks doctors to reveal more private aspects of their life, including: what proportion of their pay comes from where, detail about their family, political affiliation, stance on contraception, abortion, and early breast cancer screenings.
Around 94 percent of doctors have some sort of relationship with pharmaceutical companies. For the most part, this includes something as simple as accepting free lunch in return for giving a moment of their time to listen to a brief talk on a new drug. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that more than a third of physicians received money from pharmaceutical companies for “costs associated with meetings or continuing educations” while a little over a quarter actually got paid to enroll patients in trials, consultation, and lectures, Time reported.
However, seeing as there is already a venue for patients to find out how much of doctors' income comes from where, one would imagine that a patient could simply ask a doctor their stance on other issues, such as the ever-controversial abortion topic, in the privacy of the examination room, rather than read about it on the Web.
As expected, Wen’s proposal has been met with criticism. Some such as Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, vice chair and clinical director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital emergency department, explained his agreement with the need for doctors to discuss drug affiliations, but expressed hesitation with other aspects of the campaign.
“Disclosure about financial conflicts is one thing, but trying to put into words a physician’s philosophy on medical care is more complicated,” Kosowsky told The Boston Globe.
Others were more outspoken with their disapproval of the proposal. "I find it an invasion of my privacy to disclose where my income comes from. My patients don’t disclose their incomes to me,” Time reported of one doctor's take on Wen’s idea.