Who’s My Doctor? The Total Transparency Manifesto
When you go to the doctor, we ask you to be open with us. You tell us your story. You show us your body. You allow us to know everything about you.
But how much do you know about your doctor?
In the old days, when you had one doctor for many years, you might have known a lot. However, today’s medical landscape is very different. Few patients have longstanding relationships with their doctors. They have little to go on when deciding who to trust with their health, then are kept in the dark on matters ranging from cost of care to doctors’ motivations to necessity of tests and treatments.
When my mother was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, it took her months to find an oncologist she liked. One day, while trying to locate his office number online, she found a listing for him as a highly-paid consultant and speaker for a drug--the same chemotherapy drug that he’d put her on. This might have still been the right treatment for her, but it made her wonder, and it made her scared.
Studies show that as many as 94% of doctors report an affiliation with and receive money from drug companies and medical device companies. Though doctors deny these payments influence their decision-making, ample research demonstrate that it does. Many doctors’ salaries also depend on number of procedures done. At a time when 30% of all tests and treatments are unnecessary, patients have a right to know what may be influencing their doctors’ recommendation about their health.
If your doctor has an uncommon name, you might be able to play Google detective and uncover that they receive significant income from a drug company (see ProPublica investigation, Dollars for Docs, here). You may also find their Facebook profile or a doctor rating site. But that’s not very much information to go on to figure out who your doctor really is.
The “Who’s My Doctor?” project is a new campaign where doctors produce a voluntary, public disclosure statement, The Total Transparency Manifesto (see mine here). We disclose every financial connection to pharmaceutical and medical device companies. We write what contribution of our salary is from doing tests and procedures. We tell you our personal and professional details, and describe philosophy of practice.
I started “Who’s My Doctor?” because I know that patients come to me in a time of great fear and vulnerability. If I have something to hide—or if my patients suspect I have something to hide—then that only leads to defensiveness and more fear. The antidote to fear is honesty and transparency, and I want to let my patients know who I am.
With my disclosure, I am holding myself publicly accountable to my patients. I am saying that I don’t have anything to hide from you. I know you are vulnerable, but I’ll be vulnerable with you. This is a partnership. We’re in this together.
I’ve had the great privilege of working with and learning from so many wonderful health professionals over the years. There are so many people who went into medicine for the right reasons who are struggling against a broken healthcare system. “Who’s My Doctor?” is our effort to join together and call for a new professionalism, to counter fear and rebuild trust. It is our hope that our patients will join us in building a better healthcare system, one that prioritizes patient values and respects human dignity.