Physicians ask CMS to postpone Sunshine Act data release

AMA Wire
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The Physician Payments Sunshine Act roll-out is suffering from a major lack of communication, a shortened timeline and a confusing registration process, the AMA and 112 specialty and state medical societies told the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in a letter (AMA login required) sent Wednesday. The groups asked the agency to postpone the release of physician financial data to March 31, six months after the current publication date of Sept. 30.

Physicians had until Aug. 27 under the Sunshine Act, also known as the Open Payments program, to dispute data about their financial interactions with manufacturers of drugs and medical devices in order for inaccuracies to be flagged in the public data release scheduled for Sept. 30. UPDATE: CMS announced Thursday that it will delay the public release of physician financial data to give doctors more time to review and dispute the data. The website used to review data had been taken offline due to technical difficulties. The length of the delay was not specified.

CMS repeatedly missed its own deadlines, resulting in delays to the date when physicians could begin registering to access the reported data and a truncated period in which they could review and dispute their data. Under the current timeline, physicians were given a total of 45 days to review and dispute data.

“There are widespread concerns that the implementation of this new system for data collection … will not be ready and will likely lead to the release of inaccurate, misleading and false information,” the letter said. “The agency has not provided effective notification to the vast majority of physicians nor provided a reasonable amount of time … to engage and educate physicians on the registration and dispute process.”

The letter outlines additional concerns, including:

  • An overly complex registration process that is made up of more than 20 individual steps that requires physicians to register over a period of several days to see their data. The AMA urged CMS to streamline the process.
  • The importance of maintaining the exclusion of continuing medical education data from reporting when the industry donor is unaware of the speakers and other participants before committing to fund the activity.
  • The need to exclude journal article reprints, medical textbooks and other services used to educate physicians from Sunshine Act reporting because they have a direct benefit to patients. A specific exclusion in the Sunshine Act, as set forth by Congress, excludes materials that directly benefit patients; including them in the Sunshine Act is inconsistent with congressional intent, the letter said.
  • The potential for industry organizations to unilaterally dismiss disputes initiated by physicians. CMS has not clarified previous guidance that said drug manufacturers could dismiss a dispute if they were to determine no change was necessary, without resolving the dispute with the initiating physician.

Less than a month remains for physicians to register with CMS to evaluate whether the data reported about them is accurate. The AMA offers detailed guidance and resources to help simplify the process for physicians.

Share your experience with Sunshine Act registration: Take a short survey by Aug. 18 to share your experiences with registering in the Open Payments system and reviewing data. The AMA will use the survey data and physician anecdotes in its advocacy efforts on this issue. You also can send an email to [email protected] to outline your experience registering and the problems you may have encountered.

Don’t forget to check out #SunshineTips on Twitter to view and share tips on the Sunshine Act registration and review process.

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