Open Payments Difficulties are Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Open Payments Difficulties are Just the Tip of the Iceberg

07.22.14 | By Jenni Brewer

A ProPublica story from yesterday, “Error: You Have No Payments from Pharma,” details the difficulties physicians face while trying to register with the CMS Open Payments system. And while it only focused on a narrow group of physicians, ProPublica’s findings reflect a much larger problem. It isn’t just a select group of physicians who are having difficulties registering with the CMS Open Payment’s system; many physicians are facing similar issues.

Physicians only have from July 14th to August 27th to view the data that is being reported on them and work with industry stakeholders to correct any errors in the data. However, many physicians are still trying to complete the two-step registration process in order to view the database, in addition to dealing with glitches and error messages when trying to view data to ensure its accuracy.

With delayed timelines and a lack of timely information from CMS, it is becoming increasingly difficult for physicians to be involved in the process of the Sunshine Act – and they are vital. Physicians work alongside biopharmaceutical research companies for a variety of medical reasons, including clinical trials, research, continuing education and two-way feedback on treatments. Data will even be captured on physicians who receive peer-reviewed medical journals, medical textbooks and reprints of clinical journal articles – all tools that physicians use to stay current on treatment options to improve care for patients.

As CMS continues to roll out the Open Payments reporting program, it is crucial that physicians are being engaged and able to properly register and review data. Equally important is that the information reflected in the database comes with proper context so that the public can understand what the various types of interactions mean for their health. Physician and industry stakeholders have not received any information from CMS describing how context will be provided when the database is released, despite is being required by law.

These are just some ways in which Open Payments is appearing to be more and more riddled with problems. 

It is critical that physicians remain involved in the process to ensure that the data on the website is reflective of collaborations and interactions. It is also critical that patients have a clear understanding of why their doctor works with companies and how it leads to better treatments. PhRMA will continue to engage CMS with the hope that the process of submitting information, registering and reviewing data can become less challenging and that, once released to the public, the Sunshine Act database will fully and accurately capture the information and context required by law.

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