How AMA has advocated for Sunshine Act implementation overhaul

AMA Wire
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As the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rolls out the online database of physicians’ financial interactions with manufacturers of drugs and medical devices Tuesday, troubling questions remain about the accuracy of the data and the lack of context with which it is being presented.

Although the AMA supports transparency as originally intended in the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (which CMS is calling the “Open Payments” program), safeguards are needed to ensure that information is depicted correctly and given context to be useful for patients and fair to physicians.

Publishing inaccurate data can lead to misinterpretations, harm reputations and cause patients to question their trust in their physicians. Inaccurate data also can unfairly impact physicians’ ability to obtain or keep research grants and other employment opportunities that require disclosure.

The AMA repeatedly has urged the federal government to adopt sensible measures to ensure that the information released is accurate. But CMS’ Open Payments program has been plagued by significant shortcomings.

Recent AMA advocacy efforts on this front have included:

  • Calling for a delay of the data release. In addition to accuracy issues CMS needed to address, the Open Payments portal had numerous technical problems that prevented physicians from reviewing and disputing their data. A delay in the data release would have allowed more physicians to review their information and CMS to correct errors that have characterized the program’s implementation. Read more.
  • Reporting physicians’ troubles with the portal to CMS. An informal AMA survey of more than 200 physicians found that more than two-thirds of physicians had a poor registration experience overall. Email the AMA to share your experience with registering via the Open Payments portal. Your responses will be used in the AMA’s ongoing advocacy efforts. Read more
  • Urging CMS to exclude continuing medical education activities, medical textbooks and peer-reviewed medical journals from reporting. Requiring the industry to report funding for these educational activities could harm patient care by impeding ongoing efforts to improve quality through timely medical education. Read more.
  • Providing guidance for physicians to review and dispute their data. Although CMS failed to adequately communicate with physicians about roll-out of the Open Payments program, the AMA created an online toolkit for physicians and provided timely updates about the latest developments, deadlines and tips for navigating the problematic Open Payments portal. View past Sunshine Act coverage in AMA Wire®.
  • Educating reporters about the data release. Ahead of the Sept. 30 data release, the AMA has been encouraging the media to make sure their reports about the data release are presented in an accurate and informative way. View the AMA’s media guide.

Be prepared to answer questions about the data release: Read more at AMA Wire about the three questions you’ll most likely hear from patients and others you know—and how to answer them. 

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