Transparency is a good way for patients to learn about their doctors’ relationships with drug companies, the Pew Prescription Project’s Allan Coukell told the Washington Post, which looked Tuesday at physician-industry relationships from a consumer and physician perspective.

“We are always balancing between privacy and public good,” Coukell said. “I think there is an emerging consensus . . . that transparency is for the greater public good.”

The Post also got readings on transparency from Dr. Rafael Fonseca of the pro-industry physician group ACRE, and from Dr. Daniel Carlat of the Carlat Psychiatry Blog, and Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who has been a vocal proponent of drug safety and transparency reforms. Both Dr. Nissen and Carlat spoke at the RxP conference last December.

Though everyone acknowledged it wasn’t an easy conversation to have, Carlat suggested a way for patients to broach the issue with their doctors. “‘I’ve been reading in the paper a lot about how pharmaceutical companies pay doctors. Does that happen?’ That is a nice way of opening up the topic,”  he said.

For more on the federal transparency bill being considered by Congress, check out the Physician Payments Sunshine Act guide.