The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday posted full-year 2014 financial dataon its Open Payments website to help consumers better understand financial relationships between physicians and drug and medical device companies. Yet, questions remain about the accuracy of the data.
The 2014 data includes information on about 11.4 million financial transactions attributed to more than 600,000 physicians and more than 1,100 teaching hospitals, totaling $6.49 billion. Under the Sunshine Act, industry is required annually to report financial interactions with individual physiciansto CMS, which the agency makes public through its Open Payments program.
Consumer access to information is a key component of delivery system reform and making the healthcare system perform better, said Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt in a written statement. In year 2, Open Payments is now a highly searchable resource to provide transparency to over 1 1/2 years worth of financial transactions between drug and device companies and physicians and teaching hospitals. This is part of our larger effort to open up the healthcare system to consumers by providing more information to help in their decision making.
As CMS points out, the program relies on voluntary participation by physicians and teaching hospitals to review the information submitted by drug and medical device companies. The agency revealed that registered physicians and teaching hospitals reviewed nearly 30 percent of the total value of the reported data. Still, CMS acknowledged that the June 30 data posted on the Open Payments website also includes a group of 2013 submissions that could not be verified before the first data publication last September, 2014.
However, according to a statement from the American Medical Association, CMS' Open Payments program has to date been plagued by significant shortcomings that call into question the accuracy of information published, including an overly complex registration process and inadequate opportunity for physicians to review their individual data.
But, according to CMS, the agency was able to validate that 98.8 percent of submitted records in the Open Payments database for all 2014 and 2013 data contained accurate identifying information about the associated covered recipient and those records that could not be verified to align to an individual covered recipient were rejected and were not processed by the system.
Nonetheless, AMA argues that CMS is required by the Sunshine Act to provide context for the data released through the Open Payments program yet the agency has done the bare minimum to comply with the letter of the law. AMA asserts that for consumers to make informed judgments about the data the information must have context and that just because a physician has a relationship with industry does not automatically mean that his or her professional judgment has been influenced inappropriately.
In Tuesdays announcement, CMS said it will continue to update the Open Payments website annually with data collected from the previous year and that the agency will refresh and publish an update to the full calendar year of 2014 financial data in early 2016.
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