The AMA licenses the use of its "master file" physician data, compiled over the past 100 years or so on AMA members and nonmembers, to commercial interests (presumably for a tidy sum).  Virtually all, if not all, the data is publicly-available directory-type information about physicians.  Some vendors combine physician data with composite data on the physicians’ prescribing habits, and resell that data to Big Pharma for detailing.  Rob Restuccia at Community Catalyst, among others, doesn’t think this should continue to happen.

Medscape is running a story on this allegedly improper use of data on physicians and their prescribing patterns for pecuniary gain.  (Free registration may be required.)  The objection seems focused on the licensing of the directory information, so I found it pretty amusing that the ad served up opposite this story as I was reading it was for a physician directory marketed by WebMD, which owns Medscape.

I’m less concerned with the AMA’s licensing of physician info (they’re on the receiving end of other info-sharing deals, e.g., Sermo) than with the availability of patient data, prescription and otherwise, and the so-called secondary use of this health data — which really ought to be better-protected than it is.

David Harlow