AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property
of the Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
RE: H.R. 2652 "COLLECTIONS OF INFORMATION ANTIPIRACY ACT"
Presented by Richard F. Corlin, M.D.
February 12, 1998
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
My name is Richard M. Corlin, MD. I am a practicing gastroenterologist from Santa Monica, California and I serve as the Speaker of the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association (AMA).
The AMA is pleased to take this opportunity to express our strong support for H.R. 2652 "The Collections of Information Antipiracy Act". We urge prompt and favorable action by both the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual property and the full Committee.
The AMA developed, maintains and owns significant databases including the Physician Masterfile, Physicians' Current Procedural Terminology, FRIEDA, Practice Parameters and the Directory of Physicians in the United States. These databases promote the core purposes of the AMA by providing medical, scientific and other useful information to the medical profession and to the public. The licensing and sales of these databases also provide significant revenue to the AMA.
The accuracy and up to date nature of these databases is extremely important to the public as well as the AMA. As I will discuss, these unique compilations of information have widespread application and benefit the public in numerous ways. The AMA needs to prevent unauthorized use and copying of these databases in order to preserve the uniformity and integrity of these databases as well as protect the revenue streams necessary to maintain the databases.
The AMA, as the world's largest medical publisher, and representing its physician members also has a strong interest that data be made available for medical, scientific and other research purposes. Physicians performing research, scientific authors and others must be able to have access to up to date scientific, medical and other related data. We believe that H.R. 2652 provides the means to meet both the interests of database protection and reasonable information availability.
Let me describe two of the AMA's key databases.
The American Medical Association's Physician Masterfile is considered to be the most comprehensive source of physician-related data in the United States. This unique file contains demographic, educational, certification, licensure, and current practice information for over 800,000 active U.S. doctors of medicine (MDs) and over 90% of the doctors of osteopathic medicine (Dos), including members and nonmembers alike. Primary-source reported information contained on the Masterfile is provided to hospitals, managed care organizations, licensing boards and other organizations and agencies concerned with the verification of physician credentials. This is one of the many ways in which the Association works to strengthen the medical profession and ensure quality healthcare for the American public. Through this initiative, imposters and dishonest physicians have been uncovered more efficiently and medical staff have become aware of all significant past disciplinary problems of an applicant who has moved from another state or hospital.
The unique identifier on the AMA's Physician Masterfile allows healthcare companies to more easily identify those physicians that would most be benefited by the availability of new drugs and their side effects. The unique identifier is also used to protect the public by helping to ensure physicians have been contacted in the event of a drug recall by the Federal Drug Administration.
Physicians' Current Procedure Terminology
The AMA's Physicians' Current Procedure Terminology is a compilation of numeric codes with associated descriptions for the reporting of procedures performed by physicians. This database is known as CPT coding terminology. The CPT medical code is a short hand language used by physicians and their staff to enable physicians to communicate effectively about the medical services they have performed on their patients. For example, by using the five numeric digits of "33510" the medical and insurance communities know that this code refers to "Coronary bypass, vein only, single coronary veneous graft". CPT coding terminology contains over 7000 codes and related descriptions to describe the wide diversity of medical procedures.
Use of the CPT medical code expedites the reimbursement of medical claims to patients and physicians and assists in tracking medical care. CPT coding terminology is used for a variety of purposes including widespread application in connection with internal hospital record keeping and evaluation the quality of care provided to patients. It is used in state and federal reimbursement programs. The CPT medical code is an essential tool in helping the federal government maintain control over Medicare expenditures.
In light of the continuing development of medical practice and technology, CPT coding terminology is updated annually through an elaborate and exhaustive process that requires highly skilled state of the art input to reflect advancements in medicine, procedures and technology. The AMA has spent millions of dollars in the upkeep and maintenance of the CPT medical code. We hold multiple meetings throughout the year and thousands of hours are spent revising CPT coding terminology to assure that medical procedures are accurate and reflect new advancements in medicine. An AMA staff of 15 individuals works with an Editorial Panel of 16 including physicians and representatives from government and the insurance industry to insure the up to date nature and quality of the CPT medical code. We also consult with over 90 physicians who are members of our Advisory Committee in developing CPT medical terminology as well as other health care providers. Over 1000 physicians directly or indirectly provides input to keep the CPT medical code current on an annual basis.
AMA POSITION ON NECESSITY FOR LEGISLATION
The purpose of H.R. 2652 is to protect collections of information, including databases such as ours from substantial copying by third parties that cause commercial harm based on unfair competition principles. Specifically, the bill would supplement rights that are available under the current copyright laws.
Cases involving the copyright of databases and compilations have not been predictable and put databases such as ours at substantial risk. Recent court rulings are suggestive that copyright protection to certain types of databases is weak. The AMA's copyright in the CPT coding terminology was also challenged in recent litigation, Although the appellate decision upheld the AMA's copyright in the CPT medical code, petitions before the U. S. Supreme Court are extant. In addition, the AMA has been compelled to file various Amicus briefs in the last few years in cases that could adversely affect the AMA's copyrighted databases. These activities have been crucial to protect the AMA's databases. These efforts have taking their toll on the AMA by diverting significant staff and financial resources away from the core purpose of the AMA. The AMA mission's is to promote the Art and Science of Medicine and the betterment of public health. We want to continue to contribute the better health of Americans by making our scientific and medical related databases available to the medical profession and to the public.
The AMA also licenses some of its databases abroad including the European Union. (EU) Due to a recent EU directive, databases created in the United States would not have the same protection as databases created in the EU. Adopting database protection legislation in the United States could be a step toward providing the necessary "reciprocity" in order to protect U.S. databases in the EU.
HR 2652 would provide the framework to protect the AMA's databases independent of copyright. The primary language of the Bill provides for both financial and criminal recourse against any person who extracts or uses all or a substantial part of information gathered, organized or maintained by another person through the investment of substantial monetary or other resources, so as to harm that other person's actual or potential market for a product or service. In addition, the Bill provides for use by others of databases in specified circumstances.
Mr. Chairman, although the AMA supports this Bill we recommend the following modifications to provide for more comprehensive and balanced legislation.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. We commend you for introducing H.R. 2652 and holding this important hearing. The AMA supports H.R.2652. In developing our suggested modifications, we have tried to address the balance of protecting databases while meeting the needs of researchers, scientists and others that need to use our databases. The AMA stands ready to work with you, Mr. Chairman, and Members of your Subcommittee on these important matters in the future.