The pile of medical journals on my desk has been growing steadily over the last several months. It’s hard to keep up with all the reading required for my informatics role (Federal Register, anyone?) let alone make time for clinical reading.
Summer hit full force this weekend and the prospect of going out in 90 percent humidity didn’t sound too enticing, so I decided to play catch up. One of my journals has a dedicated public policy section and of course the IT-related items always grab my attention.
CMS apparently released a mobile app to help physicians track payments and gifts received from drug and device manufacturers. My journal stack must have been older than I thought since the requirement for manufacturers and group purchasing organizations to collect the data kicked in last August. Separate apps were created for physician and industry use. Maybe being behind on one’s journals is a good thing, however, since it would allow me to do a post-live assessment of the app.
Looking at the FAQ for the app (only CMS would release an eight-page document for a smart phone app) it didn’t look that promising, although I liked the feature that would allow physicians to send profile information from the physician app to the industry app. That would have been helpful last year when I had to provide my NPI number after a colleague bought me a drink. He realized as he was signing the bill that as an employee of a medical device manufacturer, he was obligated to report it.
Knowing that I have no idea what my NPI is, I’d rather have bought him a drink as opposed to having to email myself a reminder to dig it up and send it to him. In case you’re interested, the threshold for reporting is $10. The martini in question was $12.50, having been purchased in a hotel bar at HIMSS. Had we both had the app in play, I could have stored my NPI in my profile and simply beamed it over.
Other than that, the apps don’t communicate with anyone. They are designed to make tracking easier, which probably benefits the manufacturers more than it does individual physicians, except for those who habitually mooch off of every vendor rep they encounter. In the interests of full disclosure, I didn’t accept drug samples in my primary care practice and generally don’t attend industry-sponsored events. I would probably have less than a dozen items to track over the course of a year and they would probably all be related to drinks at HIMSS, MGMA, or another trade show.
The physician app (which is also for other professionals subject to the reporting requirements) also features the ability to create or import QR codes to share information with others involved, although separate codes are needed for profile and payment data. A summary of transactions can be downloaded and the app is password protected. The information is stored locally and will auto-erase after multiple failed access attempts.
If you get a new phone, you might be out of luck since there’s not an easy way to transfer the information. Just looking at the FAQs, it seemed like more trouble than it was worth, but I headed off to download it nevertheless. It requires an eight-character password although it didn’t require me to use anything other than lower case. The cheesy stock images of physicians and industry staff were a turn-off however. Data entry was completely manual, so my initial reaction was right. I’d rather email myself the information and auto-route it to a folder in Outlook.
I agree it’s important for physicians to keep track of their data since it will be made public this fall. I decided to visit the CMS website to see what information was available and whether that martini from HIMSS was now visible to the public. Apparently it’s more complicated than I thought. There are two phases of registration. Physicians can register in the CMS Portal, but then they’ll have to come back in July to register in the Open Payments system itself.
The CMS website links to a “Step-by-Step” registration presentation. Seriously? CMS expects us to demonstrate Meaningful Use in a variety of ways but has to provide a presentation on how to complete a registration to an online repository? No kidding, it was 42 slides long.
I did learn that the registration just started June 1, which seemed somehow validating that maybe procrastinating on my journals wasn’t a bad thing. Had I read about this last August when it was released, I probably would have forgotten by now.
I also learned that I’d have to go through an identity-proofing process that was even more stringent than what I had to go through to be an e-prescriber of controlled substances. I’ll be asked questions about my employment history, mortgage lender, and other “private data” and information from my credit report. The identity-proofing process is being run by Experian, but CMS wants to assure me the information isn’t going to be stored anywhere. The registration process will result in a soft credit inquiry.
By Slide 11, I was ready for a martini even if I had to make it myself. CMS requires the password to be changed every 60 days, so I’m sure I’ll become familiar with the reset process. I’m not familiar with this CMS portal, so I was intrigued by its promise to “present each user with only relevant content and applications” yet “provide ‘one-stop shopping’ capabilities to improve customer experience and satisfaction.”
My satisfaction wasn’t much improved by the popup that appeared when I tried to read the FAQs to see what else I could do on the Portal while I wait for Open Payments registration to open next month. I did find quite a few new acronyms I hadn’t seen before, but left before discovering anything I thought might be of use. I finally figured out that I had to request access to Open Payments specifically. Maybe I should have paid more attention to Slide 28.
At that point, I went through the actual identity proofing, only to be told I need to set up another profile to register to see my data. I got blocked at that point, since the “Physician” option is still inactive. I’ll have to try my luck in July, when I can not only see my data but experience a yet-to-be-determined dispute process should the need arise. At least that will give me plenty of time to find a new martini recipe. Have a good one for summer? Email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.