Federal and state governments have recently targeted “gifts” made to physicians in order to curtail any unethical influence pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and medical supply manufacturers may have on doctors. The MRA Government Affairs team has been lobbying on these issues, since research incentives have been threatened within the scope of most such proposed legislation. Any restrictions on incentives paid to physicians will have a profound affect on respondent cooperation. 

To date, we have not been able to test cooperation impacts in the real world, because affected manufacturers have effectively cut off research with physicians in any state that requires disclosure of payments. While MRA has achieved an exemption in the current drafts of the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, upwards of 40 state legislatures considered legislation in the last year to either require public reporting of such payments (including incentives) or ban them outright. As part of our due diligence on this issue, MRA conducted research into the potential results of restrictions on physician incentive payments.

The Web survey, designed by MRA and conducted by the Olson Research Group between June 24-July 6, 2009, illustrates the impact that legislation could have on the research profession. A total of 576 physicians participated, giving their opinions on incentives and disclosure requirements.

Importance of Incentives
When asked to rate the statement that best describes their motivations in participating in market research, 9-in-10 general practice (92%) and specialist (93%) physicians indicate that incentives play at least some part in motivating them to participate in market research. Less than 1-in-10 general practice (6%) and specialty (5%) physicians signify that they would participate in market research absent an incentive. 

Disclosure of Incentives
Physicians are divided on whether they would participate in market research if disclosure of their acceptance of an incentive is required. 7-in-10 general practice (68%) and specialty (68%) physicians claim that they would still participate in surveys where disclosure is required.

However, about a quarter of general practice (24%) and specialty (26%) physicians may not participate given disclosure requirements. Only 1-in-10 general practice (9%) and specialty (6%) physicians are certain that disclosure requirements would result in their decision to not participate in research.

Information Released to Peers, Patients & Employers
When asked about market research participation if patients, peers and employers might learn of their acceptance of an incentive, physicians demonstrated less willingness to cooperate in market research.

Seven-in-10 general practice (69%) and specialty physicians (71%) either definitely or somewhat agree that they would participate in market research if their patients, peers, and employers might learn of their acceptance of an incentive.  However, 2-in-10 general practice (22%) and specialty (18%) physicians indicate that they definitely or somewhat disagree that they would participate in market research given disclosure requirements.  

Levels of Disclosure Will Impact Physician Response
Physicians’ willingness to participate in market research varies according to the type of disclosure required. Asked to rate a series of scenarios on a 5-point scale, only 2-in-10 general practice physicians (22%) and 1-in-10 (14%) specialty physicians are likely to refuse to participate in surveys due to disclosure of their first name and last initial.  However, 9-in-10 general practice (85%) and specialty (85%) physicians are likely to refuse if their home address were publicly disclosed due to receiving an incentive for participation in market research.

Conclusion
The data shows that physicians will likely make their decisions of whether or not they’ll participate based on the details of the law. The biggest drop-off will come if physicians feel that their participation is disclosed in a way that is likely to been seen by their relationship network and if the information that is disclosed is highly identifiable and personal. Ultimately, any legislation impacting incentives acceptance by physicians will negatively and substantially affect the available pool of doctors.