Free CMS App Lets Physicians Track Industry Payments, Gifts

July 23, 2013

Come September 2014, the federal government will begin publishing online what drug and device makers give to physicians, whether it is a speaker's honorarium or pizza from a drug representative.

Many physicians wonder whether that information, which manufacturers must supply to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), will be accurate. A pharmaceutical company could report that it gave a physician $3000 worth of lunchtime meals over 12 months when they cost only $1000, for example.

Never fear — there's an app for that, says CMS.

Last week, CMS released a free mobile software program that physicians can use to record "transfers of value" from industry. Physicians are not required to report the receipt of cash, meals, and other forms of industry largesse to CMS, but by voluntarily entering this data in the app, they will be in a better position to double-check industry figures, according to the agency.

The app, called Open Payments for Physicians, also gives physicians various tools for managing their affairs with drug and device makers. One tool allows physicians to import payment data from sales representatives — or vice versa — who use a second Open Payments app designed for industry.

Both apps work with the iOS Apple and Android operating systems. They can be downloaded from the iOS Apple Store and the Google Play Store, respectively.

"Open Payments" is shorthand for the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a provision in the Affordable Care Act. The sunshine provision requires drug and device makers to publicly disclose their financial dealings with physicians, which can include a physician's ownership position in a company as well as cash and cash-equivalents received. Transfers of value worth less than $10 — a cup of coffee, say — are not reportable unless they add up to more than $100 over the course of a year. The idea, as lawmakers see it, is to shine a spotlight on possible conflicts of interest in physician–manufacturer relationships that might compromise education, research, and clinical decision-making.

On August 1, drug and device makers will begin compiling information on transfers of value to physicians during the last 5 months of 2013. They must forward these data to CMS by March 31, 2014. CMS will publish the data in a searchable format on a public Web site by September 30, 2014.

More information on the mobile apps and the Open Payments Program administered by CMS is available on the agency's Web site.

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