Hospitals: Can you afford to ban big drug company payouts?

A hospital's best friend?This week, a very interesting (and important) question courtesy of the indefatigable KevinMD.com:  Can hospitals afford to shut down the lucrative relationships doctors have with pharmas?  To quote his blog:

“A recent case at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital [has] raised some eyebrows. Apparently, an asthma specialist was so dependent on drug company money, that he chose to quit the hospital [rather than give up extra income]. According to the Boston Globe, “Out of thousands of US doctors hired by drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline to talk about its products, [this physician] was the highest paid during a three-month period last year, the company recently disclosed: He made $99,375 for giving 40 talks to other physicians last April, May, and June, almost one every other day.

When it comes to hosptials like Brigham and Women’s, which have the kind of resources and reputation many others would kill for, it’s not likely there will be any lasting damage to the organization.

But what about community hospitals?  Can they afford the hit?  What if a single invasive cardiologist took their patients with them to a rival hospital next door?

After all, according to a study done earlier this year by Merritt Hawkins, that invasive cardiologist typically generates $2.2 million per year, a sum few hospitals can let go lightly.  And if you really want to cringe, look at the other top specialties and what they bring in each year. For a smallish hospital this is a VERY scary game.

Looking a chess move ahead, does this mean that pharmas can play hospitals against one another, or even hospital systems, if they  play the right incentive games?  Not sure where it all ends, but it’s not pretty.

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