On Friday June 27, 2019, CMS published the 2018 Open Payments data. Overall there was little change with the exception that ownership interest grew significantly 45% from $976 million to $1.42 billion from 2017 to 2018.
When it was launched in 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) Open Payments website was heralded as a major step towards public-access and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. At the time, in-house compliance professionals, consultants, and regulators all counseled that companies should use the newly available data (both their own and their competitors) to improve their compliance programs and to avoid potential enforcement actions.
Five years have now past, and despite the existence of a robust data set to examine patterns and trends, the reality is that accessing the CMS data remains both a difficult and potentially expensive exercise for most life science companies, regardless of size.
Both the Policy & Medicine daily news and the Policy & Medicine Compliance Update have been writing about the Physician Payment Sunshine Act and CMS Open Payments for a long time, and neither publication endorses a single compliance approach or technology solution. However, we would be remiss if we did not cover the launch of Cresen Solutions new, web-based application PowerCMS™. Cresen gave Policy & Medicine an advanced look at the application, and unlike other options we have seen, PowerCMS™ is both free and free-standing: the application costs nothing to access and is not incorporated as part of another transparency system or reporting tool.
The goal of PowerCMS™ is to provide all companies with access to a powerful analytical tool that companies can use to review the complete Open Payments database to answer specific questions, such as what other companies is Dr. Smith working with, how much is my company spending on meals versus my competitors, or should we consider Dr. Jones a regional or national Key Opinion Leader (“KOL”)? As Jeff Cohen, Chief Compliance Officer and Regulatory Counsel at Globus Medical, Inc. commented, “These insights are the kinds of insights we have been trying to accomplish internally but it wasn’t easy and very labor intensive. Now we have a tool to easily analyze not only our data, but data from other companies across the industry.”
Cresen sees this as an opportunity for Compliance to provide real value to their business partners. As Cresen Solutions’ Managing Partner, Emil Saladik put it, “this is an opportunity for us to use our expertise and pay it forward. We believe that every life science company, no matter the size, should be using the CMS data to improve both their compliance functions and their business. In 2019, it’s just table stakes.”
Fellow Managing Partner, Neeraj Gupta, echoed these sentiments noting PowerCMS™ is not simply a once-and-done offering because Cresen is committing to keeping the application up-to-date and current. “As CMS publishes new data, we will continually update PowerCMS™ as quickly as possible so that it always stays current and useful.” When asked about how fast PowerCMS™ would be updated, Neeraj said, “oh we are talking days, not weeks or months.”
Cresen’s application uses Microsoft’s Power BI to provide a smooth and intuitive user interface that serves up the CMS data into a readily understandable dashboard. The results shown are just the raw data taken from the CMS database as Cresen neither massages nor makes interpretations about the results the application returns. Therefore, it up to each user to draw his or her own conclusions about the meaning of the results. Likewise, the application’s outlier tab merely highlights “outliers” based on the average payment by category across the industry. Again, Cresen leaves the user to draw his or her own interpretations.
Despite the known limitations of the CMS data, PowerCMS™ still provides a powerful new tool for compliance departments of all sizes, while at the same time eliminating two majors barriers to using Open Payments data: complexity and cost. Consistent with the concept of transparency, Cresen’s PowerCMS™ can be accessed by anyone who follows this link and fills out the registration form using a valid organization or company email address.
We will be covering the 2018 Open Payments data release in detail in the coming days.