Docs concerned about Sunshine Act rules

More than half of doctors are unaware of the so-called “Sunshine Act,” a provision of health reform that’s intended to expose financial relationships between drug and device manufacturers and certain health care providers, tech firm MMIS Inc. reported Monday. Even more say they are “deeply concerned” that the law will create a publicly accessible database of physician payment information.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the final rule for the Sunshine Act Feb. 1 after a long delay. This rule finalizes the provisions that require manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologicals, and medical supplies covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program to report payments or other transfers of value they make to physicians and teaching hospitals to CMS. CMS will then post that data to a public website. The final rule also requires manufacturers and group purchasing organizations to disclose to CMS physician ownership or investment interests.

The survey revealed that of the more than 1,000 physicians questioned, more than half admitted they didn’t know that the law requires pharmaceutical and medical device companies to report on expenditures annually, without physician review of the data to correct any inconsistencies or errors, prior to submission to the government.  The majority—63 percent—also said they “were deeply concerned” that a record of these payments will be available in a publicly searchable database.

MMIS CEO Michaeline Daboul says that the new rules will “undoubtedly encourage scrutiny by the public, physician peers and their institutions.”

“Government, industry and physician organizations will need to increase communication in this new age of transparency, share data prior to public dissemination and provide a process for physicians and institutions to resolve disputes regarding incorrect or inaccurate information,” Daboul says.

According to the survey, a majority of physicians receive some kind of benefit from industry in their workplace, including food and beverages in the workplace (57 percent) and samples (54 percent). About half (48 percent) have participated in a medical industry sponsored program, 11 percent have participated in speaker bureau programs and 10 percent have participated in advisory board programs. Another 2 percent are still accepting free event tickets or gifts.

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