Does the Open Payments Database Provide Sunshine on Neurosurgery?

Maya A. Babu, Robert F. Heary, Brian V. Nahed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The Open Payments Database (OPD) was launched by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in 2014. Through this online searchable database, the public can explore physician-industry interactions. To date, there is no published literature on the accuracy of the database for neurosurgeons or any physician specialty. OBJECTIVE: To study the accuracy of published records and scope of industry-neurosurgeon relationships between neurosurgeons and industry within the OPD. METHODS: We searched 4.3 million records in 2013 and 11.41 million records in 2014 in the OPD for board-certified neurosurgeons verified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Delimit software was used to condense these data, Microsoft Access for database queries, and STATA to perform descriptive analyses. RESULTS: Of the 3240 neurosurgeons in the OPD in 2013, 2020 were identified correctly as neurosurgeons within the database (62%). Of the 3593 neurosurgeons in the OPD in 2014, 2433 were identified correctly as neurosurgeons (68%). Within the OPD in 2013, there were 72 066 attributed records for neurosurgeons; within the 2014 OPD, there were 160:563 attributed records for neurosurgeons. Total payments to neurosurgeons in 2013 (for the 9 months published in OPD): $61 802 659.37; in 2014: $117 127 824.00. CONCLUSION: The OPD details physician interactions with industry and has multiple inaccuracies. Publicly availing inaccurate information through a searchable governmental website that can be accessed by patients and journalists alike has the potential to tarnish individual neurosurgeons and undermine professional credibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-938
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


  • Conflicts of interest
  • Public policy
  • Transparency

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