The Physician Payment Sunshine Act is here: Are you ready?

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act is here: Are you ready?A guest column by the American Medical Association, exclusive to

Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit. 

-Former ServiceMaster CEO C. William Pollard

The new Physician Payment Sunshine Act (Sunshine Act) was created by Congress to ensure transparency in physicians’ interactions with the pharmaceutical, biologic and medical device industries as well as group purchasing organizations. Physicians elected to our House of Delegates have developed strong ethical standards and made clear that physicians’ relationships with these industries should be transparent and focused on benefits to patients.

Many interactions between physicians and the pharmaceutical, biologic and medical device industries occur to advance clinical research that is essential to discovering treatments and improving patient care. The Sunshine Act is not meant to stifle these important interactions. The AMA has provided input to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on how to present a meaningful picture of physician-industry interactions and give physicians an easy way to correct any inaccuracies. Our efforts were aimed at ensuring the benefits of transparency and avoiding the burden of incorrect information.

Research shows that physicians are not yet aware of many of the changes coming from the Sunshine Act. Here is what you need to know right now: Beginning in August, pharmaceutical and medical device companies must begin tracking information on their interactions with physicians, which they will report to CMS from that point forward. CMS is creating a public database on its website that will display the information reported by the pharmaceutical, biologic and medical device companies. This database will go live in September of 2014.

CMS incorporated a number of our comments in the final rule governing the Sunshine Act. We are pleased that they will not require the reporting of pharmaceutical industry funding to CME providers as long as the CME complies with existing requirements for certification and accreditation. There are other exclusions as well, including product samples and in-kind donations for charity care.

Accuracy is just as important as transparency, so we are also pleased that physicians will have a minimum of 45 days to challenge any information before it is public and can dispute inaccurate reports and seek corrections during a two-year period. Physicians can, and absolutely should, review information submitted about them before it becomes public so they can correct any inaccuracies. This can be done by asking manufacturers and their representatives to provide the information they intend to report, or by registering with CMS (beginning January 1, 2014) to receive a consolidated report on your activities each June for the prior reporting year.

Now is the time to get up to speed on this major change, and the AMA is offering resources to help. An easy way to get started is by registering for a webinar I am hosting on April 24. I will provide information on what is happening and when, and what you need to do to be ready. Because this information is critical for all physicians to have, the AMA is providing this webinar free of charge. I hope you will tune in and encourage your colleagues to do so as well.

We are also developing tools to aid physicians in talking with their patients about the transactions included in the new Sunshine Act database. These and other resources – including answers to frequently asked questions, important dates to remember and information on how to challenge incorrect reports – are available. We will continue to update this page and offer the latest information and tools to help you prepare for the changes coming from the Sunshine Act.

Jeremy Lazarus is president, American Medical Association.

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  • ninguem

    There are about 850,000 actively licensed physicians in the USA.

    The AMA has, what, about 200,000 members now. That’s less than a quarter of all USA physicians. The number shrinks every year. Of that 200,000, a very substantial fraction are medical students and trainees, paying a token few dollars as a courtesy.

    The AMA doesn’t represent physicians, they represent government, they represent big business. The interest of physicians…….or the public……be d@mned.

    Heck, this may be a useful law, though I suspect it does nothing more than demonize a physician who accepts a pen or a sticky pad, Mainly, the majority of physicians could care less, what the AMA has to say about anything.

  • Ian

    The people (politicians) who make a career of taking money from special interests have passed legislation to track doctors taking money from special interests. The sheer irony makes my head hurt. From your link:

    “If a physician and manufacturer(s)/GPO(s) cannot resolve the dispute, they are provided an additional 15 days before the report is made public to try to achieve resolution.

    If resolution is still not reached, the disputed information will be flagged, but the report will be posted on the public webpage CMS develops for such reports.

    Physicians are also able to seek correction or contest reports for two years after access has been provided to a report with disputed information.”

    So basically a pharmaceutical representative who is cheating the system (they have to file expense reports) or makes a clerical error they can’t track and files charges under my name that I dispute, and we can’t come to a resolution, my best case scenario may be public erroneous charges filed against me with an asterisk next to them? Or I can spend 2 years of my life fighting a large multi-national corporation AND the government?

    I despise talking to most drug reps and for the most part limit my contact with them as much as possible. That being said I will have to see if our practice wants to continue allowing them to buy lunch for the office in order to have access to physicians at lunch time. We do not talk to them during patient care hours. We might just have to opt out of the lunch arrangement. On a personal level I don’t actually really mind to be honest, but my employees sure won’t be happy.

    I can’t remember the last time something posted by the AMA has been good news. No wonder you represent some 17% of physicians.

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