Last year, ProPublica released a report titled “Dollars for Docs”, which featured the top 50 companies, highest earning doctors, and more data related to “Sunshine” payments and gifts. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act was created in 2010 as an effort to improve the financial transparency between providers and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. And with good reason.
In 2009, a national survey of physicians found that nearly 84% reported to have some financial interaction with manufacturers of pharmaceutical, medical device, and other healthcare industries, and about 15% received payments for professional services.
Certainly, just because a physician has a relationship with an external industry vendor does not mean they have done anything wrong. But in order to deter any acts of medical malfeasance, many organizations have policies against accepting a certain value of payments or gifts from a physician’s promotional talks, research, or consulting efforts.
The argument being that certain financial interests could improperly influence a physician’s medical decision making, the medications they prescribe, or the medical device used among patients. After all, if there is a financial incentive for the physician, is the physician choosing the best treatment option for the patient, or the best treatment option for his or her pocketbook?
To help compliance officers (and others responsible for auditing and monitoring conflicts of interest) the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a tool called the Open Payment Program, which reports payment information from industry organizations made to physicians, among other data points. It’s a handy tool, we should all be using. But with so much data at your fingertips, where do you even begin?
Check out our eBrief, The Sunshine Act: Do You Know Who’s Lining Your Physician’s Pockets?, for a tutorial on what data is available, how to find it, and what you can do with it all.