Seeing the Sun Shine: Health Care Goes High TechMany health care providers have mixed feelings about the 2010 Physician Payment Sunshine Act. Passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, the Sunshine Act is the first piece of federal legislation requiring pharmaceutical companies to report online all physicians who accepted “payment of other transfer of value” over $10.
Publishing this information on the Internet and entering it into the public domain gives patients and watchdog groups the ability to explore connections between doctors and drug companies and determine whether or not these relationships serve patients’ best interest. With the reports set to begin in 2013, physicians and hospitals are struggling to accept this new level of transparency.
Still, some wonder what all the fuss is about. Sunshine Laws aren’t an entirely new concept. In fact, Minnesota has had one since 1993 with online reports available for the last five years. Not to mention, under the 2009 HITECH Act, the entire healthcare industry will adopt electronic health records by 2020.
It appears that healthcare professionals are concerned that the Sunshine Act lacks effective disclosure and security guidelines and could impact the delivery of healthcare by opening up this information to the public. Others argue that disclosure will not impact how physicians interact with pharmaceutical companies and that the online health information exchange may stifle drug innovation.
By using the guidelines for electronic health records as one possible model, the benefits of the Sunshine Act may outweigh the aforementioned concerns. As one report explains, “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) believe that certified EHR technology used in a meaningful way is an important piece of the broader health information technology infrastructure needed to reform the health care system and improve health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety.”
Using and maintaining CRM systems will assuage worries about data accuracy while continuing to encourage transparency and access to the information. Whether patients choose to access the information is yet to be seen, however, being able to review the data may help patients become better informed about treatment options. Providing a watchdog for the watchdogs should keep the information secure and safe from misrepresentation, protecting physicians and patients, just as Hippocrates intended.