CMS promises to overhaul Open Payments database

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has vowed to learn from the mistakes it made in its first round of publishing data about financial relationships between providers and healthcare manufacturing companies to improve the fairness and accuracy of information in its next round of disclosures.

One day after researchers and policymakers in support of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (PPSA) hosted a panel to review the first round of disclosures mandated by the law and chart a route forward, CMS officials expanded upon plans for the law's future on a conference call with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, Law360 reported.

The first round of disclosures, which covered August to December 2013, recorded a total of $3.7 billion in transactions, including money for research activities, gifts, speaking fees, meals and travel, according to CMS data. But criticism about how data was collected and presented dogged the project--which is part of the Affordable Care Act--from the outset.

Here's some of the changes that Law360 states CMS hopes to make as part of what Data Sharing and Partnership Group Director Douglas Brown called "a pretty in-depth overhaul" of its reporting system:

  • Prevent records from being submitted with overlapping data that confuses providers with the same names
  • Fix the issue of having to match provider names with National Provider Identifier numbers, which not all physicians have
  • Allow principal investigators who lead clinical trials to review reported payments

The proposed changes come after a rocky first round of disclosures, which required CMS to exclude large chunks of information from its Open Payments database and even delay its launch to fix inconsistencies, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Beyond the issues that providers and manufacturers raised, critics pointed out that the first iterations of the Open Payments portal on the CMS website weren't particularly user-friendly, with reported problems of long delays and error messages, according to FierceHealthIT.

Panel members at last week's forum said they were in favor of providing more context for the disclosures so consumers can better understand what they mean. Some panelists also wanted to expand the disclosures to cover non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners and social workers, who are currently excluded from the law.  

The next round of disclosures is set to be published in June.

To learn more:
- read the Law360 report (subscription required)