Following the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) decision to adhere to Sept. 30, 2014 as the public launch date for its first report on the Open Payments Program, ASCO is urging CMS to proceed with caution and to provide the public with complete information and context about the data that will be made public.
CMS’ announcement comes despite a ten-day shutdown of the online reporting system that occurred amid numerous physician reports about an overly complicated registration process and data errors.
The Open Payments Program, established by the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, is designed to create greater transparency around the financial relationships of manufacturers, physicians, and teaching hospitals. Manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs and devices, as well as group purchasing organizations (GPOs), must now report payments or transfers of value (such as meals, honoraria, or travel reimbursements) made to U.S. physicians and teaching hospitals to CMS.
The law also requires manufacturers and GPOs to report physicians who have an ownership interest in the company. Reports will be released once a year and will be posted on a public website via the Open Payments Program. Data collection for the Sept. 30 report began on Aug. 1, 2013.
ASCO strongly supports transparency in health care, but the society is concerned that a lack of context will contribute to misconceptions about the nature of the payments, because not all payments have the same implications. The public needs to understand that, for example, payments for research support important clinical research collaborations between physicians and industry that result in new treatments for patients.
CMS also announced that one-third of the Open Payments Program data showing physician ties with the drug and medical industry have errors and will not be made public in September, raising additional concerns about data reliability and accuracy.
As was seen with the Medicare payment database release in April 2014, an uncoordinated release of data without context could result in confusion and unnecessarily drive a wedge of misunderstanding and mistrust between physicians and patients. To avoid similar issues with future releases, ASCO advises CMS to expand its outreach and education of physicians on Sunshine Act requirements and to simplify the registration process so that physicians can easily identify and correct errors in the data prior to release.
More information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, the Open Payments Program, and the impact on oncology practice is available here.