Doctors of optometry received payments totaling $39.6 million in 2016 from industry

Doctors of optometry received payments totaling $39.6 million in 2016 from industry

Doctors of optometry received payments totaling $39.6 million in 2016 from industry

The FINANCIAL -- Doctors of optometry received payments totaling $39.6 million from drug and medical device makers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) in 2016, according to new, publicly reported data by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). 

That total came in about 220,400 payments last year to doctors of optometry and was up slightly, compared to $39.4 million from about 172,250 payments in 2015. By contrast, ophthalmologists received $91.9 million via 154,400 payments in 2016 compared to $79.4 million from about 140,230 payments in 2015. On June 30, CMS posted for public review individual payments to doctors last year as part of its Open Payments transparency program. The program requires those manufacturers and GPOs to disclose payments to doctors of optometry and other doctors on an annual basis. CMS collects and creates the database for the sake of transparency-to "increase public awareness of financial relationships between drug and device manufacturers and certain health care providers," according to the federal agency.

Publicly reported payments received by doctors can come in various forms including:

Cash or cash equivalent.

In-kind items or services.

Stocks, or stock options, or any other ownership interest, dividend, profit, or other return on investment.

Any other form of payment or other transfer of value.

Payments can be for travel and lodging, grants, research, consulting fees, gifts, honorarium, education, and food and beverages. 

Transparency and trust 

CMS does not prohibit these payments; in fact, it calls them mutually beneficial because they "contribute to the design and delivery of life-saving drugs, devices, biologicals, and medical supplies." 

Plus, provided the relationships don't create a conflict of interests for doctors, transparency can help build trust between patients and doctors, say two members of the AOA Ethics and Values Committee (EVC). 

"As optometrists, we have a moral obligation to abide by our Standards of Professional Conduct (section on relationships with industry)," says EVC member Kenneth Lawenda, O.D. "The Open Payments program provides an additional level of confidence in the doctor-patient relationship by providing another layer of openness and transparency that patient care is not influenced by conflicts of interests."   

Adds Doug Totten, O.D., chair of the EVC committee: 

"The availability of accurate and understandable data can be a helpful resource for the public as it can help promote accountability between providers and industry and aid the evaluation of individual providers. However, it is critical that the information presented in the Open Payments system be correct, so each optometrist should verify the information being presented to the public. Inaccurate or poorly defined information may actually harm a doctor-patient relationship when no wrongdoing was intended or had occurred."