AMA, Sermo online service battle over AMA policies

A couple of years ago, the American Medical Association and online physician community Sermo struck a much-ballyhooed partnership. For a while, the two parties seemed comfortably intertwined, but in reality, there was trouble brewing beneath the surface, with large numbers of Sermo members complaining that they weren't happy with the AMA's stance on many issues.

Now, the two parties are in the midst of a noisy public divorce, with Sermo CEO Daniel Palestrant saying that "the AMA can no longer claim that it represents physicians in this country." Palestrant and Sermo members say they're frustrated with the AMA's failure to address issues such as limiting insurance companies' ability to deny care; tort reform and settlement caps; and changing the law to allow doctors to negotiate collectively with insurers. Also, Sermo members strongly support a "public option" health plan, while the AMA opposes it.

Palestrant is particularly upset by the AMA's continued support of the CPT coding system, which he says is making it increasingly hard for doctors to practice medicine. The AMA owns, maintains and profits from sales of CPT compendium and, according to Palestrant, makes more money from licensing for CPT codes than it does from membership dues. (The alternative, according to Palestrant? "Cash Please, Thanks.")

The dispute follows a survey by Sermo officials, who interviewed 4,156 members and looked at upwards of 2,000 separate AMA discussions about Sermo over the past three years. The survey's findings included that 75 percent of responding physicians weren't AMA members; that 89 percent of physicians claimed "the AMA does not speak for me"; and that 91 percent of physicians surveyed don't feel the AMA accurately reflects their opinions as physicians.

To learn more about the dispute:
- read this Health Leaders Media article