Marketing the positive. It is what medical device marketers try to do every day. Recently, I spoke with a few medical device companies about physician payment disclosures. Everyone wants to do the right thing. However they don’t want to reveal too much, perceiving this as negative news. I disagree.
Here is the upside to physician payment disclosure (“remuneration”) in medical device sales and marketing materials and activities:
1. Proactive disclosures differentiate your marketing as ethical and
You will be judged in the court of public opinion–you can make it a positive pronouncement. It may not be tomorrow or next month. It may be next year. Someone will find your journal reprint, brochure or patient education piece. It may be a “helpful” competitor who packages it up and sends it to FDA or DDMAC, initiating a paper storm or a surprise on-site visit to audit all your marketing materials–the latter happened at one of my companies. Better yet, if you are very successful, it may be a journalist from a nationally-ranked news outlet, like the WSJ. They will do a complete and thorough investigation (or worse, just enough to find the negative and newsworthy) and blast it to their legions of fans.
Since your marketing, educational and scientific materials and activities will be judged in the court of public opinion, use this as an opportunity to differentiate your company as one with strong ethics and disclose, disclose, disclose. While a few critics and pro-consumer groups may paint your proactive disclosures in a negative light, any outcry will be minimal versus a failure or gap in disclosures subsequently uncovered, as detailed by the Pew Prescription Project. Also, please don’t use your competitors’ materials as a benchmark–they might not be taking the high road.
2. Transparency enables informed decision making for your physicians (HCPs) and patients.
Innovative medical devices are designed to improve or lengthen patients’ lives and benefit public health. Sometimes with our noses down writing plans and creating marketing communications (MarCom), we forget that. Patients are why medical devices and pharmaceuticals exist. Physicians need to make the best possible informed decision for their patients. And, patients are increasingly empowered to take their medical care into their own hands at sites like PatientsLikeMe, CureTogether and the recently debuted Society for Participatory Medicine. In fact, Policy and Medicine believes that industry to physician payment transparency can empower patients. Just as patient informed consent is intended to fully disclose the risks and benefits so should sales and marketing literature and activities. The upside? If your grandmother was reading about a new medical device, wouldn’t you want her to know if the inventor who was receiving royalties on sales was the lead author on the pivotal clinical trial?
3. Implementation opens a line of communication with HCPs about the upcoming disclosures in the Sunshine Act.
Your compliance and finance colleagues are already doing the heavy lifting in preparation for the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act, part of PPACA and mandatory for all U.S. drug, device, biotech, and medical supply manufacturers. Here is the timeline:
- Physician payment data collection begins January 1, 2012*
- Disclosures must be given to HHS by March 31, 2013
- HHS will post all payments in a publicly searchable database by September 31, 2013
You have the ability to pilot the physician discussions in partnership with your compliance colleagues to define how, where and when in marketing these disclosures should occur as well as how to track and update them. Additionally, you are proactively providing your doctors with an opportunity to weigh the risks and benefits of financial remuneration, in advance of their financial behavior being tallied and then broadcast by HHS to their patients.
In closing, physician payment disclosures are good marketing. You have an opportunity to use this seeming challenge to:
- Differentiate your company as forthcoming and ethical
- Empower patients and the growing community of e-patients along with their physicians to make informed healthcare decisions
- Start deeper discussions with doctors and HCPs in partnership with your finance and compliance peers to iron out the tactical execution of disclosures
Plus, it’s a great opportunity for more cross-functional dialog–always a good thing. So, disclose away!
- Payments From Industry To Orthopedic Surgeons Dropped After Disclosure Requirement (medicalnewstoday.com)
- The ethics of being on a pharmaceutical advisory board (kevinmd.com)
- Podcast: Dollars for Docs Update (propublica.org)
- Stop Making Sense: Aggregate Spend Reporting (goodpromotionalpractices.com)
*Note: CMS missed their deadline to provide detailed instructions on this data collection. Here are Senator Grassley’s response and the latest update plus background from the great Policy and Medicine blog.