First Round of Physician-Industry Data Released to the Public

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released on Sept. 30, 2014 the first round of data on consulting fees, research grants, travel reimbursements, and other gifts that medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies provide to physicians and teaching hospitals. In a CMS press release announcing the program, Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, director of the Center for Program Integrity at CMS, said "Using this new data, it is now possible to conduct a wide range of analysis of payments made by drug and device manufacturers."

Passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, the "Physicians Payments Sunshine Act," now known as "Open Payments," requires that certain manufacturers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) report to CMS information about payments or other transfers of value they've made to physicians or teaching hospitals.

As noted in the press release, about 40 percent of the published records are de-identified. This is because a manufacturer had attested that the payment had been made but CMS was unable to match the physician information or the record was not available for review and dispute. This data will be fully identifiable in 2015 after the reporting entity submits corrected data, and physicians and teaching hospitals have a chance to review and dispute. In addition, data that were disputed and not resolved by the end of the September 11 review period were not published and will be updated at a later date.

According to CMS, the published data contains 4.4 million payments valued at nearly $2.5 billion attributable to 546,000 individual physicians and almost 1,360 teaching hospitals.

CMS estimates that about 9,000 records were not published due to disputes that weren't settled by the end of the review and dispute period (September 11). Because only 26,000 physicians and 400 teaching hospitals registered in the Open Payments system to review payments attributed to them, questions around the accuracy of the rest of the data could surface once more physicians log into the system to view data attributed to them. Physicians still can initiate disputes of 2013 data until December 31. However, these disputes will not be flagged in the public database until 2015. 

The next published report will include payment data for all of 2014 and will be published in June 2015.