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Open Payments system back online after rocky start

CMS brings the Open Payments site back online after an ID mix-up involving physician data prompted a review; some data won't be made public pending further investigation.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) put its disputed Open Payments system back online after suspending it for nearly two weeks when at least one physician complained that payments to another doctor with the same name appeared under his name.

"The Open Payments system is once again available for physicians and teaching hospitals to register, review and dispute financial interaction information received from health care manufacturers and group purchasing organizations," CMS said in release.

"Incorrect payment transactions have been removed from the current review and dispute process and this data will not be published," the statement continued. That adds up to about one-third of payments data still offline until next June, Modern Healthcare reported.

While CMS has put off the deadline for doctors to check the accuracy of their data and file any disputes from Aug. 27 to Sept. 8, the federal agency is sticking to its Sept. 30 target date for the information on the Open Payments website to be made public.

AMA voices displeasure

The American Medical Association, which had warned of potentially inaccurate reporting, called for further delay of full rollout of the Open Payments program.

I don't think it's accurate right now. It's ridiculous. I think it's still screwed up.
David E. Mann, M.D.electrophysiologist

"The agency has not fixed the major problems that continue to mark the roll-out of this database including confusing and inaccurate information, lack of reliable functionality, and excessive time required to register and review reports," the American Medical Association said in a statement. "This inadequate response will lead to inaccurate publication of data."

The program was established this year under the Physician Payments "Sunshine Act" provision of the Affordable Care Act to reduce conflicts of interest and attempt to control healthcare costs, among other things, by publishing financial relationships between the medical industry and healthcare providers and hospitals on a public Web site.

"We took it down for some quality and data checks," Salters told SearchHealthIT earlier.

"CMS takes data integrity very seriously and took swift action after a physician reported a problem," said CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Program Integrity Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., in a release. "We have identified the root cause of the problem and have instituted a system fix to prevent similar errors. We strongly encourage physicians to review their records before the deadline and before the data are posted publically to identify any discrepancies."

According to the CMS release, a "full investigation" into a physician complaint found that manufacturers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) submitted intermingled data, such as the wrong state license number or national provider identifier, for physicians with the same last and first names.

"This erroneously linked physician data in the Open Payments system," the statement said.

CMS said it has double-checked all the data to ensure that physician identifiers used by the manufacturer or GPO are correct, and that all the applicable payments are attributed to a single physician.

Physician reports mix-up

The problem that prompted the shutdown of the site was first reported by ProPublica, after David E. Mann, M.D., a Louisville, Ky., electrophysiologist, discovered payments to another David E. Mann, M.D., an oncologist in Florida. The Kentucky doctor wrote a blog post about it.

"Given my experience, I encourage everyone to check their own data. I doubt I am the only one who has mistaken data," Mann wrote. "All this could prove a huge embarrassment to physicians when the data is posted to the public."

In an interview after the site was put back up Aug. 14, Mann said he was alarmed to discover that while the mistaken payments attributed to him were now gone, about three appropriate payments to him from medical device manufacturer Medtronics were missing. Mann said those payments totaled about $100 and were for things such as lunches and breakfasts.

"They took out the disputed accounts, but it doesn't seem quite right," Mann said.

Mann added that another physician, a friend of his, also noted several legitimate payments had gone missing.

"I don't think it's accurate right now. It's ridiculous," Mann said. "I think it's still screwed up."

Mann also criticized what he called a cumbersome, time-consuming and intrusive system for doctors to register on the system, a process that he said takes several hours and multiple screens, and asks participants to disclose credit history information as part of verifying identities.

In prepared background information, CMS officials said they initially found that at least one manufacturer supplied erroneous data that combined the real name, address and NPI [national healthcare provider identifier number] of a physician with the wrong state medical license.

"This caused our system to combine that data with the data of the physician who actually held that license," according to a CMS statement provided to SearchHealthIT. "Because of this, a physician was able to see all payments, including payments for the other erroneously physician connected by the medical license."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writeror contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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