Colorado Medical Society

Feds make first wave of drug and device company payments to teaching hospitals and physicians public

Friday, October 03, 2014 03:15 PM

On Sept. 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the first round of Open Payments data to help consumers understand the financial relationships between the health care industry, and physicians and teaching hospitals, as part of an ongoing effort to increase transparency and accountability in health care, according to an agency press release.

This information release is part of the Open Payments program, created by the Affordable Care Act, and lists consulting fees, research grants, travel reimbursements, and other gifts the health care industry – such as medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies – provided to physicians and teaching hospitals during the last five months of 2013. The data contains 4.4 million payments valued at nearly $3.5 billion attributable to 546,000 individual physicians and almost 1,360 teaching hospitals. Future reports will be published annually and will include a full 12 months of payment data, beginning in June 2015.

The federal CMS has acknowledged that financial ties among medical manufacturers’ payments and health care providers do not necessarily signal wrongdoing. For example, the database does not differentiate between payments that could be interpreted as positive, like a physician doing clinical research, or negative, like money for a trip to promote a certain drug or device. The agency pledges to work closely with stakeholders to better understand the current scope of the interactions among physicians, teaching hospitals, and industry manufacturers.

Manufacturers submitted data to the agency this summer and they performed initial matching to aggregate payments to a single physician or teaching hospital. After the data were collected and displayed, registered physicians and teaching hospitals had the opportunity to review payments reported about them and dispute information they believed inaccurate. More than 26,000 physicians and 400 teaching hospitals registered in the Open Payments system to review payments attributed to them. The AMA asked the agency to delay the information’s release to get the most accurate information. Robert M. Wah, MD, AMA president, said in an article by the Morning Consult, “Our concern is that inaccurate information could be in that database if only 26,000 physicians got to look at their information. We’re not in favor of releasing inaccurate data to have patients get an inaccurate view on their physicians.”

Over time, the federal CMS expects to make enhancements such as introducing new tools to allow for easier data searches. This improved search functionality will allow users to more easily review payments received by their personal physician, or search on criteria such as specialty, location, or types of payments received.

To view the Open Payments physician payment dataset and other background, please visit the Open Payments website,

For guidance on how to respond to patients’ questions about data published on the site, click here to download (login required, member or nonmember) a list of talking points the AMA created specifically to assist physicians in fielding both general inquiries about the Open Payments data release and specific questions about personally identifiable data found on the federal CMS site.