Launch of Open Payments website has industry and physician associations on edge

September 30, 2014

Today’s launch of the Open Payments website has trade and physician associations worried about the accuracy and presentation of its data.

The September 30 launch of the Open Payments website has trade and physician associations worried about the accuracy and presentation of the data.

One-third of available data is being withheld from the site by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) due to concerns that it might contain errors.

Still, CMS stuck to their planned launch date in spite of requests from the American Medical Association (AMA) and other physician groups to push back the timeline.

Three life science trade association also recently sent a letter to CMS outlining concerns about how information on the new site will be presented. PhRMA, Advamed, and BIO said the site “must provide clear background information and context regarding such industry relationships” in order to be meaningful to patients and the public.

That background “ensures the reported data is helpful in patient decision-making. Further, providing context for reported payments and other transfers of value is critical to ensuring patients do not form mistaken impressions that all payments to physicians are suspect.”

View the Open Payments website here...

The associations noted that the decision to withhold one-third of existing data is an indicator that the process for reporting payments is potentially flawed.

“Based on preliminary reviews that many of our member companies have conducted of the removed data, it appears that those companies reported data to CMS in a manner that was consistent with the reporting guidelines and parameters established by CMS,” noted the letter. “Accordingly, it is not clear why this volume of data is being withheld.”

Open Payments, part of the Sunshine Act, is a national disclosure program administered by 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 program requires drug, device and medical supply manufacturers to report transfers of value, ownership or investment interests, and payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals.

Physicians have 45 days to review and contest data attributed to them. It was during a review of initial data in July that questions were raised by physicians about misattributed and intermingled data, leading CMS to withhold data in question from today’s launch.

The AMA urged CMS in August to delay the launch of the site until March 31, 2015 to ensure accuracy, saying the initial 45-day physician review period was too short.

In a written statement on September 29, the AMA said that it supports the release of data because it can improve quality of care for patients. But, it added, “certain safeguards are needed to ensure the information is depicted correctly and in context to be useful for patients and fair to physicians.”

It encouraged the media to verify the accuracy of information on the website before reporting it.