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Does the Open Payments Database Provide Sunshine on Neurosurgery?

Babu, Maya A. MD, MBA; Heary, Robert F. MD; Nahed, Brian V. MD, MSc

doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000001417
Special Article

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.

ABBREVIATIONS: CMS, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

OPD, Open Payments Database

Author Information

*Department of Neurologic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota;

Division of Neurosurgery, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey;

§Department of Neurosurgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

Correspondence: Maya A. Babu, MD, MBA, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55902. E-mail:

The abstract of this paper was presented at the 2016 American Association of Neurological Surgeons Scientific Meeting on May 2, 2016, Chicago, Illinois.

Received August 31, 2015

Accepted July 16, 2016

Copyright © by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons