The American Medical Association closely tracks the activities of physicians from medical school to death. In its Physician Masterfile, the AMA merges all of the information it has ever collected about physicians and the medical care they provide.

The AMA began compiling physician data in 1906—the Physician Masterfile is now more than a century old and includes records for approximately 900,000 physicians, about two thirds of whom are not AMA members. Physician records are never removed from the AMA Physician Masterfile, even in the case of a physician’s death.

The results of a Kaiser Family Foundation research study showed that only 60% of physicians were aware that the American Medical Association is selling their information through the AMA Physician Masterfile Database, but 74% of physicians were opposed to the practice once they were so informed.

Even worse, doctors were less informed about their ability to opt-out of having their practice-level data sold, according to an American Medical Association survey in January 2007, only about 10% to 15% of physicians were aware of the AMA’s Physician Data Restriction Program (PDRP); a second survey in late May showed that physician awareness had increased to 33%.

According to Dr. Robert Musacchio, PhD, the AMA’s Senior Vice President of Publishing and Business Services, “Our goal is to have 60% of the physicians aware of the program at the end of 2007 and shoot for 100% by the end of 2008, which is probably an unrealistic goal…We’re doing everything possible to make physicians aware of this, and so far there has been a higher level of awareness than I thought there would be, but a much lower response in terms of people actually opting out.” In 2002, sales of licenses to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Physician Masterfile generated $20 million in revenue for the organization. By 2007, sales of the AMA Physician Masterfile had reached $40 million per year.

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