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Practice Tips: Review reporting of industry relationships

From the July/August ACP Internist, copyright © 2014 by the American College of Physicians

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be posting online physician-industry relationships, such as transfers of value (e.g., cash, in-kind services, stocks) and ownership interests involving industry (including pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers) beginning on Sept. 30.

This new regulation, originally labeled the Physician Payment Sunshine Act but now referred to as the Open Payments program, will disclose in 2014 transactions that occurred from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013. The program recognizes the importance of collaboration between industry and the medical community and is viewed as a means to help all stakeholders better understand these relationships and help prevent inappropriate influence or conflicts of interest.

Examples of reportable transfer of value and ownership interests include:

  • consulting fees,
  • compensation for services other than consulting, including serving as faculty or speaker at an event other than an accredited CME program,
  • honoraria,
  • gifts,
  • entertainment,
  • food and beverages,
  • travel and lodging,
  • education,
  • research,
  • charitable contribution,
  • royalty or license payments,
  • current or perspective ownership or investment interests, and
  • grants.

The Open Payments program is broadly supported by College policy because it encourages transparency throughout the health care system. The underlying position is that increased access to relevant health care information will promote quality and efficiency and improve the ability of all health care consumers to make better, more informed decisions. The program is also aligned with ACP ethical guidelines, which highlight the need for physician awareness of the potential undue influence of these financial and similar relationships with industry and encourage disclosure.

The new program mandates no action on the part of physicians or teaching hospitals. All data collection and reporting are the responsibility of industry, with significant penalties linked to violations. Physicians and teaching hospitals can elect to review reported information and dispute and correct it prior to public reporting during a 60-day period that will begin in July 2014. All disputes that are not settled prior to public reporting will be indicated as “disputed.” The College recommends the following actions for those interested in reviewing the industry-reported information:

  • Learn more about the Open Payments program on the CMS website and on the College’s website;
  • Educate staff about the Open Payments program and what constitutes reportable interactions with industry;
  • Maintain records of possible transfer-of-value events (CMS offers a free Open Payments Mobile for Physicians app at the iTunes App Store);
  • Subscribe to the CMS Open Payments listserv to receive updates and other important information regarding the program; and
  • Register with CMS when permitted to participate in the 60-day review period that will allow for correction/dispute prior to its public release of reported industry information.

Neil Kirschner is senior associate for regulatory and insurer affairs in ACP’s Center for Practice Support, a division of ACP that encompasses the College’s primary resources for medical practices.

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