For many people in my line of work, a newly published survey by Dr. Jon Tilburt and colleagues:
--is likely to cause a fair amount of handwringing. (See for example Dr. Ezekiel Emanual's accompanying editorial:
"My line of work," in this case, is arguing that physicians and their professional societies ought to step up to the demands of professionalism and take leadership in stopping the overuse of medical interventions that provide no patient benefit, might do harm, and waste a lot of money. The present survey of attitudes among a national sample of physicians is nonreassuring in several ways. Physicians generally point the fingers at others as being much more responsible for doing something about excessive medical costs (those evil trial lawyers, of course, being right at the top of the list). And while most policy wonks think we'll do nothing to reduce the overuse of worthless procedures until we reform the fee-for-service system of payment, physicians are quite solidly stacked against any such changes in reimbursement.
I'll pass on those comments for now, however, and simpy focus on a couple of questions that seemed relevant to the theme of this blog.
First, while physicians were happy to dodge the bullet on responsibility for reducing health costs, with only 36% of the sample admitting that practicing physicians had a major responsibility for this, 56% of them said that pharmaceutical and device manufacturers had such a major responsibility--suggesting that a lot of physicians held these people responsible for a good deal of high health costs. (Only 5% said these companies had no responsibility.)
Next, when asked what measures they might approve of to reduce health costs, "Limiting corporate influence on physician behavior" received a 63% "very enthusiastic" rating and an additional 27% "somewhat enthusiastic." So again, the vast majority of physicians seemed to agree that it would be a good thing if corporate influence were limited as a way of controlling costs.
So there appears to be some evidence that we pharmascolds have had some impact on physician attitudes in recent years.