AMA voices “widespread concerns” over Sunshine Act launch

August 12, 2014

A key component of the public website that will list payments doctors receive from drug and medical device makers has been taken offline due to incorrect postings, one week after the AMA cited concerns and asked for a 6-month delay of the launch date.

A key component of the public website that will list payments doctors receive from drug and medical device makers has been taken offline due to incorrect postings.

Open Payments, part of the Sunshine Act, is a national disclosure program administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that seeks to promote transparency by publishing the financial relationships between the medical industry and healthcare providers (physicians and hospitals) on a publicly accessible website. The site is due to launch September 30.

The Sunshine Act: How to ensure the accuracy of your disclosures

The shutdown comes one week after the American Medical Association (AMA) along with 112 specialty and state medical societies asked CMS to push back the website launch from September 30 to March 31, 2015 due to widespread concerns.

It also comes in the middle of the program’s review and dispute period, which began on July 14.  Physicians had until August 27 to dispute data about their financial interactions with manufacturers of drugs and medical devices before the public launch. CMS has announced that it will extend the review period based on how long the system remains offline, but has not yet provided any specifics.

"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,” CMS said in a written statement.

"CMS takes physician privacy very seriously and we have taken the system offline temporarily and will work with the industry to eliminate incorrect payment records.”

 

While the shutdown prevents healthcare providers from registering and reviewing data until the issue is resolved, they can still preliminarily register with the CMS Enterprise Portal.

In a July 28 letter to CMS, the AMA wrote that there are “widespread concerns that the implementation of this new system for data collection … will not be ready and will likely lead to the release of inaccurate, misleading and false information.”

“The agency has not provided effective notification to the vast majority of physicians nor provided a reasonable amount of time … to engage and educate physicians on the registration and dispute process.”

The letter also cited other concerns including:

•          An overly complex registration process that is made up of more than 20 individual steps and that requires physicians to register over a period of several days to see their data. The AMA urged CMS to streamline the process.

•          The potential for industry organizations to unilaterally dismiss disputes initiated by physicians.

The Open Payments system has faced other delays and glitches resulting in missed deadlines. Data collection was originally slated to begin in January 2012 but manufacturers only began collecting data in August 2013. In addition, CMS missed its own deadline to issue the final rule on the Sunshine Act rules by several months, eventually issuing a final rule in February 2013.

Related:

Registration begins for physicians to review Sunshine Act data

The Sunshine Act: 7 things you need to know

Physician groups welcome transparency