Investigating the Sunshine Act

Investigating the Sunshine Act

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act will have a major effect on drug manufacturers, doctors and medical professions across the country. Aimed at increasing the transparency surrounding relationships between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry, the Sunshine Act requires that all transfers of value between medical professionals are logged in an official, federally mandated expense report. These reports will later be made available to the public through a website hosted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

While physicians will have the right to review reports and challenge any financial statements they find to be untrue or misleading, the Sunshine Act is directed toward creating a comprehensive database of every transaction made between affected professionals. Those in the medical industry searching for a way to comply with the new laws in an efficient manner may do well to investigate expense report software solutions that could allow their businesses to log expenditures easily.

When did the Sunshine Act take effect?
Manufacturers were required to collect and track payment, transfer and ownership information of all expenditures and exchanges starting on Aug. 1, 2013. Applicable manufacturers and group purchasing organizations will report the related data recorded between August and December 2013 to the CMS by Mar. 31, 2014. The data will be released to the public on a government-hosted website no later than Sep. 30, 2014, according to the center.

Beginning in 2014, physicians and teaching hospitals will be able to register with a program that will allow them to access their personal data before it is posted publicly. This program will also help them to initiate disputes, and to complete resolution programs.

What manufacturers are required to comply with the Physician Payment Sunshine Act?
Many manufacturers in the medical industry will be required to comply with the provisions set down by the Sunshine Act. Manufacturers of federally covered drugs, devices, biological items and medical supplies must report any payments or other transfers of values they make to health professionals. Applicable manufacturers and group purchasing organizations must report ownership and investment interests held by physicians or immediate family members to the CMS. And finally, applicable GPOs must document payments or other transfers of value made to physician-owners or investors if they have held ownership or investment interests in the affected interests at any point during the reporting year, according to the CMS.

To help log all these expenses, professionals can employ the use of expense report management programs. The software offered by Certify lets medical professionals to log all transfers of value automatically, and is even connected to a database that allows them to easily attach the reported expenditures to the files of the related doctors. This helps to save accountants and other representatives large amounts of time by preventing the need for manual cost reporting and reimbursements. By employing the use of automated expense reporting software that's optimized to serve the needs of those affected by the Sunshine Act, medical professionals can ensure they never violate the new provisions.

Who will look at Sunshine Act data?
Information collected in regards to Sunshine Act provisions will be studied by government officials to ensure that all affected professionals and practitioners are complying with laws regarding exchanges of value between themselves. However, the CMS will also launch a new website that will publish information regarding payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals by drug and medical device manufacturers. This website - and the information it is expected to contain - is currently scheduled to go live by Sep. 30, 2014. The page will be titled "Open Payments," according to the CMS.

By allowing the public to see what payments their own doctors have accepted from other medical professionals, the Sunshine Act aims to keep conflicts of interest in the field to an absolute minimum.