Bringing Transparency to Medicine: Exploring Physicians' Views and Experiences of the Sunshine Act

Am J Bioeth. 2017 Jun;17(6):4-18. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2017.1313334.


The Physician Payments Sunshine Act (PPSA) requires health care product manufacturers to report to the federal government payments more than $10 to physicians. Bringing unprecedented transparency to medicine, PPSA holds great potential for enabling medical stakeholders to manage conflicts of interest (COI) and build patient trust-crucial responsibilities of medical professionalism. The authors conducted six focus groups with 42 physicians in Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC, to explore attitudes and experiences around PPSA. Participants valued the concept of transparency but were wary of the law's design and consequences. They downplayed PPSA's potential and felt it undermined public trust. Showing broad unawareness of COI, they dismissed the notion of industry influence and welcomed company "perks." Misapprehensions may leave physicians unprepared to advance the opportunities PPSA holds for professionalism. The authors offer recommendations for government and medicine to improve physicians' and other stakeholders' understandings and use of the data.

Keywords: conflict of interest; ethics; health policy; industry relationships; professionalism.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Conflict of Interest*
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics*
  • Disclosure*
  • Drug Industry* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act*
  • Physicians*