Because there are millions upon millions of dollars at stake in areas of physician assessment and measurement.
When Christine Cassel, MD left the ABIM and began her work at the National Quality Forum (NQF), physicians learned of some of her conflicts of interest with other organizations, namely Premier, Inc and the Kaiser Foundation Health Plans and Hospitals. Dr. Cassel labeled these conflicts as "distractions" as she resigned her board seats with those organizations. What we do not know (and this is important) is did Dr. Cassel receive any stock or stock options from the organizations she was so cozy with as part of her compensation package? Given the usual and customary way of compensating corporate board members, I would not be surprised if she did. (Update 19:15 PM: h/t to Mr. Charles P Kroll for confirming that Dr. Cassel owns 3,704 shares of Premier, Inc stock)
Recently, a Premier, Inc press release announced its plans to purchase a company called CECity, Inc. I suspect most practicing physicians did not notice this announcement. After all, why would practicing physicians be interested in a press release touting a new business opportunity for Premier as it expands its "performance improvement capabilities across the healthcare continuum?"
But practicing physicians need to be VERY wary if our fellow physician-bureaucrats (especially those from the ABIM) when they consider their prior conflicts of interest as "distractions." That word is a flag that everyone should look deeper at these conflicts first reported by ProPublica.
When we do, we find more concerning revelations about the ABIM and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)'s motives.
According to the press release, CECity, Inc is worth about $400 million (or more) to Premier, Inc. and who do we find has been using CECity as its consultant?
Yep. You got it: the ABIM.
In fact, the relationship with the ABIM has been nearly continuous since 2010. According to CECity, they are a CMS qualified registry that provides physician "quality reporting data" to CMS:
As a CMS qualified registry for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS, ePrescribing, MOC-PQRS) and as the service provider for many physician certifying boards (e.g. ABIM, ABO, AOA) CECity is uniquely positioned to align professional and financial incentives with CQI to deliver ‘game-changing’ quality initiatives that have proven and measureable results.According to the ABIM's Form 990's, they have already paid CECity the following: $600,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2010, $1,217,800 in FY 2011, $1,112,600 in FY 2012, $1,378,138 in FY 2013, and $1,260,000 in FY 2014 (an example of these payments can be found on page 8 of the ABIM's most recent published Form 990 - provided they do not change their Form 990 after this report).
That's right: $5,568,538 of physician testing fees to CECity from practicing US physicians over five years - all of it (so far) on Dr. Cassel's watch.
If Dr. Cassel holds stock in Premier, Inc. from her prior board position there, I wonder how much money she stands to make when this cozy deal with Premier, Inc. closes? Should the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigate this transaction? We don't know, but even the apparent conflict of interest with Dr. Cassel, the president and CEO of an organization responsible for "quality" programs in our nation's hospitals, is very disturbing, indeed.
This is not a minor revelation as physicians continue their difficult task of managing patients in such an overbearing regulatory environment while our specialty societies continue to support the financially conflicted ABMS MOC program. I believe allowing independent and unaccountable third-party organizations (like the ABMS and ABIM) to collect and distribute physician and de-identified patient-related data without written consent of those who could have their ability to practice medicine or collect payment from insurance companies revoked if they don't participate in MOC is a clear violation of Department of Health and Human Services Protection of Human Subject statutes. It also remains to be determined if this violates the Sherman (antitrust) Act.
After all, it is now clear the MOC program is not a "quality assurance" exercise performed for "public's" benefit.
This is profiteering and financially conflicted research on physician subjects in its most fundamental form.