“more data is more work” Patrick Stotz on data

For the general population, figures and data are boring. Not for Patrick Stotz. Together with other journalists he investigated just how bias your doctor is concerning drugs.

Patrick Stotz is a data journalist from Germany. He works for Spiegel Online, where he turns data into visualizations, stories and maps. He is part of the team behind the “Euros for doctors” project. “Euros for doctors” investigated what payments doctors have received by pharmaceutical companies. This may influence them to prescribe a certain drug to the patient.

This was a collaboration with Correctiv.org and together they collected over 35.000 names of both doctors and companies. You can look for your doctor on the ‘Euros for doctors’ website and see what funding they have received.

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The “Is Your Doctor Paid by the Drug Producer?” talk.

The doctor is invited to attend a medical conference for instance. A pharmaceutical company will provide an all-inclusive stay. The doctor prescribes their products in return. There are different kind of doctors. There is the honest one that only prescribes something that actually works, whether or not he or she received money from them. There is also the kind of doctor that accepts a few of these payments, but not too much. Then there’s the kind that accepts everything they throw at them. Accepting payments from multiple companies. And lastly there’s the kind that only accepts payments from one company in particular.

“I wouldn’t trust my doctor if he received money from only one company” – Patrick Stotz, Spiegel Online

Euros for doctors began as a national project in Germany, but now includes Switzerland and Austria. In the future they hope to expand it to more countries. This is possible because the data is available for more EU-member states.

 

Patrick Stotz is still works at Spiegel Online, as this was one big project. He also does small every day news. That doesn’t mean he won’t be part of any big projects like this one in the future. “I take whatever comes along”, he says. “Albeit big presentations or general reporting.”

Stotz himself, was in charge of making the interactive map on the website. The map itself didn’t take long to make: “A week perhaps? We use templates so it’s not like we have to build the map then and there.” The entire site took three to four weeks to make. “The more data you have, the longer it will take.”

 

When asked if he would trust his doctor if he found him in their database, Patrick had a simple answer: “it depends”, he said. “If it’s one conference, that’s okay”, he explained. “But if they get five to six figures a year, I wouldn’t trust him anymore. Or if he gets money from too many companies.”

Of course not all doctors information is free for taking. Patrick explains that they didn’t go on the dark web. “I don’t think there’s anything there”, he says. “Unless you target one doctor in particular. But it’s not like we’d hack him or something”, Patrick laughs.

Check out their website.

Other project members are:

  • Eva Belmonte, managing editor, Civio Foundation
  • Hristio Boytchev, Reporter CORRECTIV
  • Sylke Gruhnwald, chairwoman and journalist Journalismfund.eu
  • Stefan Wehrmeyer, OKFN
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