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Report: Doctors May Be Recommending Surgeries Just To Increase Profits

REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter

A Senate Finance Committee report released Tuesday found doctors involved in physician-owned distributorships (POD) were more likely to recommend surgeries that aren’t in the patient’s best interest to increase profits.

According to the findings, the surgery rate was 44 percent higher from POD surgeons than doctors that don’t have a financial stake in the medical products, and was most commonly seen with spinal surgeons.

“Unchecked, this position of power can give POD spinal surgeons the opportunity to grant themselves a steady stream of income by increasing the use of the products supplied by their POD,” the report reads. “PODs present an inherent conflict of interest that can put the physician’s medical judgment at odds with the patient’s best interests.”

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General found POD hospitals rate of spinal surgeries was three times higher than other hospitals.

Lawmakers expressed their concern over the conflict of interest, sating changes need to be made.

The relationship between doctors their patients should be one characterized by trust and a level of professionalism that is held to the highest standards,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said in a statement. “Unfortunately, when surgeons have a financial interest in medical device companies, the data calls into question whether the best interest of the patient is considered when invasive surgeries are recommended.

According to the report, the price of medical devices is becoming distorted due to the problem –limiting competition in the marketplace.

The committee called for more transparency from POD doctors and a change in the payment structure to avoid conflicts of interest.

“Patients are strongly inclined to follow their physician’s advice, and when doctors are able to recommend surgeries from which they financially benefit from the devices used, a clear conflict of interest is presented and the patients’ health can be put at risk,” Hatch said.

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