Should Physicians “Bear Their All”? (AMA Report #7)
Report #7 Protection of Medical Staff Members’ Personal Proprietary Financial Information is an informational document describing a resolution in which American Medical Association (AMA) delegates wanted their Council of Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) to add to the prior CEJA Opinion regarding medical records and computers which begins:"the utmost effort and care must be taken to protect the confidentiality of all medical records, including computerized medical records” to also include the confidentiality of medical staff members personal proprietary financial information.
The concern of the resolution was that of the possibility of inappropriate disclosure and use of physician financial information and the extent to which that information may be used to demonstrate a conflict of interest. The inappropriate use might include the granting, denying, or termination of hospital staff privileges. The CEJA concluded that such a change was inappropriate to include in the Opinion on all medical records but the resolution was already covered in an established Opinion regarding Staff Privileges:
Decisions regarding hospital privileges should be based upon the training, experience, and demonstrated competence of candidates, taking into consideration the availability of facilities and the overall medical needs of the community, the hospital, and especially patients. Privileges should not be based on numbers of patients admitted to the facility or the economic or insurance status of the patient. Personal friendships, antagonisms, jurisdictional disputes, or fear of competition should not play a role in making these decisions. Physicians who are involved in the granting, denying, or termination of hospital privileges have an ethical responsibility to be guided primarily by concern for the welfare and best interests of patients in discharging this responsibility.
Read the entire Report at the link above. However, this concern by AMA delegates raises more general issues of how much should anyone (including patients themselves or hospital staff) except, of course, the IRS and also,by current consensus, the journals to which the doctor writes, know the financial status and investments of the doctor? Would it make any difference to you, as a patient, to have available the personal financial information about your doctor? Would such knowledge make a difference in whether to select the doctor as one’s personal physician or the one to perform that surgical operation? What would the information mean to you?
Is this information more pertinent to your selection than, for example, the doctor’s marital status, sexual preferences, religion, political preferences? How much should doctors be expected to "bare their all" in the interest of the betterment of patient care? Any ideas? ..Maurice.