This legislation is intended to provide transparency in the relationships between the physicians and the industry and to help curb the rising costs of medical treatment. Not all affected parties have accepted the transparency provisions of the Sunshine Act with open arms. Many concerns linger in the minds of numerous stakeholders throughout the health care system.
Physicians, hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry are skeptical that the information available on the public website will be accurate or accurately interpreted. They are afraid that this information can be easily misinterpreted and will negatively impact the positive collaboration between physicians and the industry. After the Sunshine Act was implemented, many hospitals were surprised at some of the revelations. Hospitals found that physicians in their employ were receiving large sums of money from the pharmaceutical industry; many hospitals took corrective action which resulted in the reduction of Pharma’s payments to physicians. As a result many hospitals are uncomfortable sharing the complexity of their financial research support and indirect payments with CMS.
Physicians are afraid that the relationships they share with the pharmaceutical industry may be subjected to erroneous interpretation by patients. Concerns center around the accuracy of the data and the time required for its review. If incorrect data is published on the CMS website it could call in question or jeopardize the reputations of those involved.
The Sunshine Act could also cause a profound change in the relationship between patients and physicians. This is because patients will have the ability to study the public data before visiting their physician. This makes physicians wonder about how the data is interpreted and if their public image is being tarnished. Providers must always be prepared to defend their actions and give patients an explanation for their diagnoses and treatment. Some patients will react well, whereas others could be suspicious of their treatment motives and may choose to seek care elsewhere.
The Sunshine Act is on a big stage and the media is devouring the data. Examples citing payments that suggest influence concerns over patient treatment decisions, portray physicians, and hospitals being swayed by industry payments.
It is too soon to tell what the financial impact of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act of 2012 will have on the cost of healthcare. We do know that it has cost millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars to implement systems that track these expenditures at pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers of medical devices and other supply manufacturers. We also know if more and more healthcare providers opt out of pharmaceutical industry sponsored programs and research it will reduce valuable advancements in medicine made by the combined efforts of industry and the medical community. If more and more physicians and hospitals opt out of R&D this could dramatically slow down the ability of getting breakthrough products to market. In addition, with physicians refusing to speak on new products it will be very difficult to educate physicians on new products at that peer-to-peer level.
The intent of the PPSA is to provide transparency and ensure the public that payments made to healthcare providers are not affecting their treatment decisions. Though many physicians are not happy with the Sunshine Act, they have no other option than accept it. The public has the right to see financial relationships between health care providers and the pharmaceutical industry. How these relationships are interpreted and the impact on the ongoing relationships between industry, physicians and their patients is yet to be determined.