The CMS wants to increase outreach efforts to providers to encourage them to register and check the accuracy of information on the Open Payments website.
“Most doctors don't even think it's really relevant to their practices,” Toula Bellios, a director in the CMS' Center for Program Integrity, told the Advisory Panel on Outreach and Education (APOE) on Thursday. The committee, composed of patient advocates, payers, researchers and providers, advises HHS on outreach and implementation around the agency's various programs.
But some panel members suggested a more productive effort might be to increase consumer awareness of the site. Informed consumers would in turn prompt providers to look more closely at what's being said about them in the database.
The website is the first public repository of national data describing financial relationships between medical-device and drug companies and physicians and teaching hospitals. In December, the agency released data detailing at least $3.5 billion in financial ties from late 2013. The next disclosure of 2014 payment data is on track for June 30, agency officials said.
The agency first focused outreach efforts on the drug and device industries. These are mandated under the Affordable Care Act to submit information on payments for research, consulting and promotional work and other transfers of value of $10 or more to the database.
Now, the agency is hoping to better raise awareness about the site so that providers will register and review what's being posted about them.
The CMS has found that awareness of the site is low among both providers and their office managers.
The agency has hired a adverting and public relations firm. It plans to launch an outreach effort targeting providers that will include ads, media outreach, an e-mail campaign and paid search engine results. Bellios attended the meeting Thursday searching for additional ideas of how to reach physicians.
Some APOE panel members thought the agency would be better served focusing their outreach attention on consumers, which by default would likely raise awareness among providers.
“If my patients start asking about this, maybe then I'll see it as a priority,” said Megan Padden, vice president of Government Programs and Compliance at Sentara Health Plans in Virginia.
Another suggestion was to become more aggressive with engaging doctors one on one at industry events, both national and at the state level.
“I asked some people what would it take to get you to know anything about this, and one physician was like, 'Someone would literally have to be standing in front of me and force me to do this,'” said Phillip Bergquist, health center operations manager at the Michigan Primary Care Association.
Physicians on the panel were less sure targeted outreach was needed. With financial disclosures between industry and doctors now so heavily regulated, little reason exists for a provider to verify information, said Dr. Roanne Osborne-Gaskin, associate medical director of Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.