Aug. 13—Hospital advocates are seeking an extension in their review of drug and device payment data amid an ongoing halt in their access to the new federal database on payments.

The Open Payments System created by the Physician Payments Sunshine Act is scheduled to publicize a first-time list of drug and medical device manufacturer payments to physicians and teaching hospitals on Sept. 30. Providers originally had until Aug. 27 to review the reported payments by those companies for accuracy. But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an indefinite suspension of provider review of that data on Aug. 7.

The halt in provider reviews was due to CMS identifying an instance of payments inaccurately attributed to a physician due to his having a similar name as another physician, according to CMS.

"After an assessment of the data resulting from a complaint, we discovered that a limited number of physician payment records submitted by at least one manufacturer incorrectly contained information about other physicians," Tony Salters, a CMS spokesman, wrote in an emailed statement. "CMS takes physician privacy very seriously, and we have taken the system offline temporarily and will work with the industry to eliminate incorrect payment records."

CMS did not address when providers would be able to resume reviews of the database. The agency believes the problem is limited to a small number of physicians, and CMS officials are notifying reporting companies about the problem and asking them to correct the root data.

Addressing the Impact

The halt in reviews has led CMS to promise in an email to providers that it would add an additional day of review for each day the website is down. But hospital advocates said more time is needed for both review and more CMS outreach.

Heather Pierce, senior director of the science policy and regulatory counsel for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), said many of more than 1,100 teaching hospitals subject to the reports have had trouble registering to review the database and found errors among reviewed information. And their access actually was cut off as early as Aug 3, she said.

The database problems and suspension of reviews have led many hospital officials to become disengaged with the process so a new CMS outreach campaign—in addition to more review time—will be needed to re-engage them, Pierce said in an interview. AAMC last week asked for at least two more weeks of review time. but as the review suspension continues, a further extension will be needed, Pierce said.

Physician advocates are seeking much more time. Last week, more than 100 physician groups asked CMS to delay the public release of the data until March 31, 2015, to give their members sufficient time to review the data for accuracy.

In the meantime, AAMC has sought to inform its member hospitals about the database, including information for their physician faculty.

Rich Daly is a senior writer/editor in HFMA’s Washington, D.C., office. Follow Rich on Twitter: @rdalyhealthcare.

Publication Date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014