Sunshine Act Review Deadline Looms

Doctors have less than a week to review and dispute data regarding their financial interactions with drug and medical device companies before the information is made public later this month.

Doctors have less than a week to review and dispute data regarding their financial interactions with drug and medical device companies before the information is made public later this month.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to update its Sunshine Act Open Payments data on Sept. 30. The deadline for doctors to review the data and flag inaccuracies is Sept. 10.

The process has been a source of much frustration for the American Medical Association (AMA), which has asked CMS to delay the release of the data by 6 months in order to give physicians ample time to review their data. Before doctors can review their data, they must complete an e-verification process with CMS and then sign up for an account with the agency’s open payments system.

However, AMA members have complained that the CMS websites are far from user-friendly. Two-thirds of the more than 200 doctors consulted in an AMA survey said they had a “poor” experience using the CMS website.

The system was taken offline for maintenance multiple times last month, most recently on Aug. 30. Another outage is scheduled for Sept. 6.

In a press release, AMA President Robert M. Wah, MD, said such outages make is clear the CMS website “is not ready for prime time.”

He said it’s imperative that the data are accurate.

“Patients need accurate information,” Wah said. “If the government releases incorrect information to the public, it can lead to misinterpretations, harm reputations and cause patients to question their trust in their physicians. Inaccurate data can also unfairly impact physicians’ ability to attain or keep research grants and other employment opportunities that require disclosure.”

CMS said its new deadline gives doctors a full 45 days to review the data, not counting the outages. In a statement last month, CMS Deputy Administrator Shantanu Agrawal, MD, said the agency takes accuracy seriously and has moved swiftly to solve technical problems.

“We have identified the root cause of the problem and have instituted a system fix to prevent similar errors,” he said. “We strongly encourage physicians to review their records before the deadline and before the data are posted publicly to identify any discrepancies.”

Asked if there was any chance CMS would consider another delay, CMS Spokesman Tony A. Salters responded by affirming that the site would launch on Sept. 30.

"We are on track for that date operationally," he said.