One lesser-known provision of the Affordable Care Act is a program called “Academic Detailing,” in which government contractors visit doctors’ offices, in an attempt to persuade these physicians to use government treatment recommendations. The stated goal of these visits, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which administers the program, is to “promote appropriate prescribing habits, including the cost-effective use of drugs.”
This program uses government-sponsored research comparing the effectiveness of different treatments, as well as certain controversial recommendations of the United States Preventative (sic) Task Force. Recent USPSTF recommendations for reduced breast and prostate cancer screenings have drawn fierce opposition from many cancer patient groups, who credit such screenings with their lives.
The precise data used to “educate” physicians is not made public, nor are there any standards at present, such as in peer-reviewed medical journals, which ensure the data is in fact, unbiased. More troubling is that physicians who do not adhere to guidelines (such as prescribing drugs or medical testing supplies in excess of levels deemed “appropriate” by AHRQ) have been sent letters encouraging them to comply.
Ultimately, for patients, it comes down to a matter of trust – who do you trust more to give you unbiased medical recommendations – your doctor with his or her years of training, experience and knowledge of your personal medical history, or a contractor using closely-guarded data to advance a government agency’s cost effectiveness policy?
Jimmy Burland, J.D.
President, Burland & Associates
Baton Rouge, La.