Confusion Reigns Over Sunshine Act

Laura Joszt

Despite the fact that the legislation will likely affect their relationships with drug and medical device manufacturers, more than half of physicians admitted they don't know the specifics of the Sunshine Act.

Tucked within the Affordable Care Act was another piece of legislation designed to increase transparency within the health care market; unfortunately, more than half of physicians are unaware of the specifics of the Sunshine Act, according to a new survey.

The Sunshine Act has been the source of some controversy since it requires drug and medical device manufacturers to annually report payments and other transfers of value to physicians and hospitals. Although the data won’t be released to the public until Sept. 30, 2014, manufacturers must begin data collection Aug. 1, 2013.

The third annual survey by MMIS and Healthcare Data Solutions found that physician are actually less informed than they were a year ago about the Sunshine Act despite the fact that The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the final rules for the provision on Feb. 1.

More than half of the 1,000-plus respondents admitted they didn't know the law requires pharmaceutical and medical device companies to report on expenditures annually, and that the information would be available in a publicly searchable database.

The survey also revealed that 43% think the Sunshine Act would affect their ongoing relationship with the industry.

“Increasing transparency of the relationship between industry and our healthcare providers will undoubtedly encourage scrutiny by the public, physician peers and their institutions," chief executive officer of MMIS, Michaeline Daboul, said in a statement. “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."

According to the survey, 54% of physicians who had industry relationships received samples; 57% received food or beverages in the workplace; 48% participated in a medical industry sponsored program; 11% participated in speaker bureau programs; 10% participated in advisory board programs; and, most surprisingly, 2% are still accepting free event tickets or gifts.

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