Although the Open Payments system is once again available online for physicians to review financial payment information received from pharmaceutical and device manufacturers under the Sunshine Act, the American Medical Association is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide doctors with more time to challenge records in the database that they deem inaccurate.

CMS announced Aug. 15 that it reopened the Open Payments database after the system was taken offline on Aug. 3 to resolve a technical issue. To account for system downtime, CMS is extending the deadline for physicians to register and dispute their records from Aug. 27 to Sept. 8, 2014 to provide them with a full 45-day review period. However, in order to “get proper participation in the program to ensure all data reported is fair and accurate,” AMA is asking CMS to significantly expand the timeframe for registration and data correction until March 31, 2015.

The Sunshine Act requires manufacturers of drugs and medical devices to report to CMS certain payments and items of value given to physicians. Doctors have the right to review the information and to dispute its veracity.

“In order for the Sunshine Act to be effective, physicians need enough time to review and correct any inaccurate data that may be reported,” said AMA President Robert M. Wah, M.D., in a written statement. “The issues that resulted in the system being taken offline further underscore the need for more time than CMS proposes to ensure the system is actually ready and that physicians have adequate time to register, review, and seek correction of inaccurate data.”

While AMA says that it supports the Sunshine Act, the organization does not support the publication of inaccurate data in the Open Payments system. According to AMA, CMS “has not fixed the major problems that continue to mark the roll-out of this database including confusing and inaccurate information, lack of reliable functionality, and excessive time required to register and review reports.”

Nonetheless, CMS says that it remains committed to ensuring that the system’s data--which will be made publicly available on Sept. 30 via its website--is as accurate as possible. The agency reports that it conducted a “full investigation” into a physician complaint which found that manufacturers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) submitted intermingled data, such as the wrong state license number or national provider identifier, for physicians with the same last and first names, erroneously linking physician data in the Open Payments system.

To resolve the technical issue, CMS claims it has implemented system fixes and revalidated all data in the system to verify that the physician identifiers used by the applicable manufacturer or GPO are accurate, and that all payment records are attributed to a single physician. In addition, incorrect payment transactions have been removed from the current review and dispute process and this data will not be published, according to the agency.

“CMS takes data integrity very seriously and took swift action after a physician reported a problem,” said CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Program Integrity Shantanu Agrawal, M.D. “We have identified the root cause of the problem and have instituted a system fix to prevent similar errors. We strongly encourage physicians to review their records before the deadline and before the data are posted publically to identify any discrepancies.”

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