For-profit healthcare needs more guardrails for patients, physicians say

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The steady growth of corporate, for-profit interest in healthcare should be analyzed and researched more to ensure that there are sufficient protections in place for patients, according to a Sept. 7 policy paper from the American College of Physicians.

The paper, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, warns that the existing healthcare system resembles a "medical-industrial complex"  that concerned American internist, professor of medicine and medical journal editor Arnold Relman, MD, in the 1980s.

"What many imagine to be a lean, market-based system is actually bloated, complex, and fragmented, increasingly directed toward generating profit," the physician group wrote. 

The physician group outlined several recommendations to increase the guardrails on profit-motivated entities and the entrance of these for-profit interests in healthcare. In particular, the physician group says that the government should increase oversight of the conversion of nonprofit systems to for-profit ones until more research is completed; systems should be mandated to disclose price and quality data; and financial conflicts of interest should be exposed. 

"Nonprofits must act like nonprofits and have a community-oriented mission; private equity firms and investor-owned organizations must attend to the needs of patients and not just shareholders; and physicians should not have a financial stake in an organization with which they have a referral relationship," the policy paper concludes.

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