The Sunshine Act Boasts Transparency

A provision of the Affordable Care Act went into effect on August 1st that will require physicians and medical companies to disclose their financial relationships.

A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect on August 1st that will require physicians and medical companies to disclose their financial relationships. The "Physician Payments Sunshine Act" is intended to increase transparency, but many doctors worry what the additional paperwork may mean for their busy schedules, and how it may affect being able to attend more pressing matters in their practices.

“We want to spend our time seeing patients, not doing paperwork,” Dr. Jason Mitchell, the director of the Center for Health IT at the American Academy for Family Physicians, said in a recent article. “Transparency is a good thing, but we certainly don’t want an increased burden.”

The Sunshine Act, also known as the “Open Payment Program,” requires industry players like pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers to report payments, gifts, and other investments like that amount to more than $10.

“The goal is to help inform consumers and patients in all medical fields about financial relationships between drugmakers and doctors, with uniform disclosure,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who originally sponsored the bill. “The public deserves a much better picture of the drug industry's financial presence in medicine than it has today.”

While the act is in effect, records are not due until March 2014, and will not be publicly available until September 2014. As well, although the main role of collecting and reporting data will lie in the hands of medical industry professionals, doctors are also encouraged to keep transaction records in case they have to protect themselves against any financial disputes. Mobile phone apps and other electronic devices have been developed by the CMS to aid physicians and medical professionals in tracking transactions.

If doctors are asked by a patient about their relationships with the medical industry, the American Medical Association (AMA) suggests they have that transparent information available. "When a patient asks about this topic,” the AMA stated, “It is important that [doctors] discuss the matter candidly in a way that will enhance the patient's understanding without compromising trust or the patient-physician relationship."

The Sunshine Act is only one of many ACA provisions intended to encourage a more patient-centered focus in healthcare delivery.

Around the Web

Physician Payments Sunshine Act Goes Into Effect Without Initial Concerns [Kaiser Health News]

Reform Update: Aug. 1 Brings Deadline to Report Physician Payments [Modern Healthcare]

Physician Groups Prepare for Implementation of the Sunshine Act [iHealth Beat]