Sunshine Act: Are Doctors Still Enjoying Free Lunches From Drug Reps?

Leigh Page


November 21, 2017

In This Article

Doctors Haven't Been Reviewing Their Data

Sullivan says that significant inaccuracies in the data are still occurring, but most physicians still haven't looked at their data. Only 5.6% of listed physicians reviewed their 2016 data on the Medicare Open Payments website, according to a report[19] by the California Medical Association, citing information from CMS.

Why so few? More than one half of physicians said they didn't care about what was being reported, nearly one half said they had not found the time to look, and 18% said they were sure that nothing had been reported on them, according to the MedPanel survey.[4]

Before new information is posted on the website, doctors can review it and ask for changes during a 45-day window that runs from April 1 to May 15 of each year. Sullivan adds that physicians can also review their data after posting and still ask for changes. If approved by the manufacturer, the data can be changed in a refresh that occurs on June 30 or December 31 of each year, he says.

However, physicians who have tried reviewing their data get very frustrated. The review portal is "a royal time-consuming pain to use," wrote a physician commenting on the 2014 Medscape article about the website.[13]

The Process Is Cumbersome

For security reasons, the portal requires doctors to initially set up an account, which involves entering several identity numbers that they have to look up. They also have to answer such questions as, "When did you buy your last car?" Sullivan says physicians get "freaked out" with that level of knowledge about their private lives.

Doctors who make it into the portal then have to review the data, which entails another cumbersome process, Sullivan says. The data are presented on a spreadsheet, and physicians have to pick out their information one record at a time.

Finally, those who find an inaccuracy and want to fix it have to send a "dispute" to CMS, which then forwards it to the reporting company. For years, Sullivan says, the dispute document did not clearly indicate to the company what record the doctor was disputing, but that was finally corrected in August.

Companies also have difficulties in determining the identity of the disputing doctor, Sullivan says. Many doctors have the same name, so companies try to match the name to an address, but the address database supplied by CMS is out of date and about one third of the data are incorrect, he says.


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