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Letting the Sun Shine on Conflicts of Interest

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How will a delay impact the final release from CMS?

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act requires that all manufacturers of drugs, devices, and biological and medical supplies covered by federal health care programs report all financial relationships with physicians and teaching hospitals to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The goal of the law is to enhance patient safety by increasing the transparency of financial relationships between health care providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers. CMS will then report the information publicly on a website scheduled to be launched on September 30, 2014.

Pharmaceutical and Medical Device companies are required to track and report all payments or “transfers of value” to physicians and teaching hospitals that exceed $10.00.

CMS has now collected the first set of reportable data and is poised to publish the information in a publically available searchable database. To assist in verifying the information that has been reported by manufacturers, CMS has opened up the “Open Payments” database for physician review. Physicians can look up their information and report any discrepancies to CMS for correction before the database goes live on the web in September/October. The dispute period will run for 45 days.

However, there has been a glitch in the review and dispute process and the database has been taken offline temporarily to investigate a reported issue. “After an assessment of the data resulting from a complaint, we discovered that a limited number of physician payment records submitted by at least one manufacturer incorrectly contained information about other physicians,” said a CMS spokesperson. “We believe this problem is limited to a small number of physicians and we are working to fully assess and correct the issue,” CMS said. “In the interim, we do not want physicians to see data which does not belong to them, so we are temporarily suspending Open Payments registration.”

Once the database comes back online, CMS will extend the physician review period. However, this has led to speculation that the extended review period will require a delay in publishing the final data to the public.

Additionally, earlier this month, more than 100 medical societies including the American Medical Association sent a letter to CMS asking it to delay the launch of the public Open Payments database to give doctors more time to review the data. “Many physicians are expressing frustration at an overly complex registration process which, combined with the condensed timeframe, makes the task of reviewing and disputing reports by Aug. 27 effectively impossible for the agency’s estimated 224,000 covered physician recipients,” the letter says.

For now CMS is holding firm to the September 30 publication date. However, after the ICD-10 delays, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if CMS delays the release of the database to give facilities and physicians more time to prepare. Facilities would be well advised to use this time wisely to shore up their own conflict of interest disclosure procedures and systems. When the final system is publically available from CMS, facilities will want to match up their internal disclosures with the information available in the public database for physicians working in their organization.

Update: The Open Payments review database had been brought back online. For now, CMS is standing by the September 30 date for release of the information to the public.  

Did you like this article? Have comments, ideas, suggestions? Please email me at info@hccs.com

How will a delay impact the final release from CMS?

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act requires that all manufacturers of drugs, devices, and biological and medical supplies covered by federal health care programs report all financial relationships with physicians and teaching hospitals to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The goal of the law is to enhance patient safety by increasing the transparency of financial relationships between health care providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers. CMS will then report the information publicly on a website scheduled to be launched on September 30, 2014.

Pharmaceutical and Medical Device companies are required to track and report all payments or “transfers of value” to physicians and teaching hospitals that exceed $10.00.

CMS has now collected the first set of reportable data and is poised to publish the information in a publically available searchable database. To assist in verifying the information that has been reported by manufacturers, CMS has opened up the “Open Payments” database for physician review. Physicians can look up their information and report any discrepancies to CMS for correction before the database goes live on the web in September/October. The dispute period will run for 45 days.

However, there has been a glitch in the review and dispute process and the database has been taken offline temporarily to investigate a reported issue. “After an assessment of the data resulting from a complaint, we discovered that a limited number of physician payment records submitted by at least one manufacturer incorrectly contained information about other physicians,” said a CMS spokesperson. “We believe this problem is limited to a small number of physicians and we are working to fully assess and correct the issue,” CMS said. “In the interim, we do not want physicians to see data which does not belong to them, so we are temporarily suspending Open Payments registration.”

Once the database comes back online, CMS will extend the physician review period. However, this has led to speculation that the extended review period will require a delay in publishing the final data to the public.

Additionally, earlier this month, more than 100 medical societies including the American Medical Association sent a letter to CMS asking it to delay the launch of the public Open Payments database to give doctors more time to review the data. “Many physicians are expressing frustration at an overly complex registration process which, combined with the condensed timeframe, makes the task of reviewing and disputing reports by Aug. 27 effectively impossible for the agency’s estimated 224,000 covered physician recipients,” the letter says.

For now CMS is holding firm to the September 30 publication date. However, after the ICD-10 delays, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if CMS delays the release of the database to give facilities and physicians more time to prepare. Facilities would be well advised to use this time wisely to shore up their own conflict of interest disclosure procedures and systems. When the final system is publically available from CMS, facilities will want to match up their internal disclosures with the information available in the public database for physicians working in their organization.

Update: The Open Payments review database had been brought back online. For now, CMS is standing by the September 30 date for release of the information to the public.