A 'Viewpoint' published in JAMA urges readers to be patient with the new federal Open Payments Program (OPP) database. The site has been designed to report drug and device industry payments to physicians.
When the database produced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services went online on Sept. 30 it was found to be substantially incomplete. OPP would be most useful to patients if its data were available within other sites that report other indicators of medical practice, which would allow consumers to assess their doctors in an all-encompassing, user-friendly site.
AdvertisementDr. Eli Y. Adashi, former dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown University, and Sachin Santhakumar, a student in the Warren Alpert Medical School said, "Viewed in the abstract, the value inherent in the transparency offered by the OPP database is beyond dispute. However, viewed in the light of day, the true value of the OPP database remains uncertain and probably too early to ascertain."
The debut site was incomplete in four main aspects- with only five months of data, incomplete vetting, de-identified payments, and limited context. The true potential of the site for journalists, policymakers, health administrators, doctors, patients, and medical educators remains hindered by its incompleteness.
Improvements are underway. But, problems with the rollout of OPP may take time to fully fix. Dr. Adashi said "This is a bad start, but we need to give it a chance." The US Department of Health and Human Services released new tools to ease navigation of the site. In June 2015, the database will add year-round data instead of the present five months data.
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