Discrepancies Noted in Financial Disclosures Among Academic Physician-Directors

Physician holding a stack of US dollars
Physician holding a stack of US dollars
Continued improvement in payment reporting mechanisms is crucial to meet the benchmarks set by the Physician Payments Sunshine Act.

Continued improvement in reporting mechanisms is crucial to meet the financial disclosure benchmarks set by the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, according to research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Timothy S. Anderson, MD, of the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional analysis of US healthcare company payments made to academic physicians. Proxy statements submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were compared with payments disclosed through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Open Payments database.

Among the SEC disclosures, 61% of the identified 145 academic physician-directors served with companies that were not listed in the Open Payments database. Of the remaining directors (n=56), 64% disclosed at least 1 payment via the Open Payments database for the company on which they served, 20% listed only payments from other companies, and 18% had no payments disclosed. Twenty-one percent of physician-directors with ownership interests disclosed this information in Open Payments.

Thirty-two physicians disclosed information in both databases. Within these disclosures, median SEC-reported compensation was greater than all compensation reported in Open Payments ($236,077 vs $139,950). Greater compensation was more often disclosed to the SEC.

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Dr Anderson and colleagues note 2 major study limitations. First, three-fifths of the identified relationships were between physicians and healthcare companies that were not listed in Open Payments. In addition, large discrepencies were noted in the amount of disclosures made to the SEC vs Open Payments. Researchers suggest that the CMS should consider “revisiting requirements to mandate specific reporting of physician-director relationships, given the financial magnitude and unique conflicts of interest these relationships pose.”

“The Open Payments program has yielded important insights into financial relationships between physicians and industry,” the researchers concluded. “To meet the Physician Payments Sunshine Act’s goal of developing a greater understanding of financial relationships in health care, continued improvement in reporting mechanisms is crucial.”


Andersen TS, Good CB, Gellad WF. Industry payments to academic physicians: a comparison of reporting to two government agencies [published online June 12, 2018].  J Gen Intern Med. doi:10.1007/s11606-018-4526-2

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag