Deadline to Check Industry Payments to Docs Fast Approaching

July 25, 2014

Physicians have until August 27 to review and challenge what drug and device makers have reported giving to them by way of cash or gifts as part of the government's Open Payments program.

They should brace themselves for possible online headaches.

The Open Payments program was established by a subsection of the Affordable Care Act called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. It is designed to discourage physicians from embroiling themselves in conflicts of interest that might corrupt clinical decision-making, research, and education. Under the Sunshine Act, drug and device makers must inform the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of any "transfer of value" of $10 or more to physicians. If transfers of value under $10 add up to more than $100 a year, that is reportable, too, as are ownership stakes in drug and device makers.

Manufacturers began reporting payments to physicians, everything from lunchtime pizza to consulting fees, on August 1, 2013. CMS, in turn, will publish payment data for the last 5 months of 2013 on its Web site on September 30 of this year.

Physicians have been able since July 14 to review and challenge any payment data concerning themselves with the hopes of having it corrected. August 27 is their last day to do so. If disputed data are not corrected by then, it will be published but marked as disputed. Physicians also can elect to do nothing — they are not obliged to review what drug and device makers claim to be giving them.

"Surprised They Didn't Ask for My Blood Type"

To access industry payments, physicians must jump through 2 online hoops. The first is registering in the CMS Enterprise Portal and its Enterprise Identification Management System. Physicians were able to do this beginning June 1. This registration allows physicians to then register in the CMS Open Payment System, where they can get to the important numbers.

The second hoop may tax some physicians' patience. According to a July 21 story published by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, some physicians said it took them as much as an hour or more to verify their identities in the Open Payment System and log in. CMS notes on its Web site that "identity verification can take some time." Likewise, a blogger named "Dr. Jayne" complained on a Web site called HISTalk recently that the Open Payment system asked her to submit too much information that CMS already has in its system, such as a medical license and Drug Enforcement Administration numbers.

"I was able to finally get through all the steps, only to learn that I won't be able to do anything else until my profile is 'registered' after my identity as a physician is confirmed," Dr. Jayne wrote. "I'm surprised they didn't ask for my blood type."

ProPublica mentioned yet another complaint. When physicians who had not received any industry largesse looked themselves up on Open Payments, they encountered these words: "You have the following errors on the page. There are no results that match the specified search criteria." Physicians who expected a simpler message such as "no payments" said they were confused. ProPublica quoted a CMS spokesperson as saying that the verbiage "clearly states that there are no results for the doctor."

More information on registering to review industry payments is available on the CMS Web site.


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