Girardi | Keese

Sunshine Act may help in medical malpractice litigation

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the National Physician Payment Transparency Program, also referred to as Open Payments or the Sunshine Act, will require manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices in California and all other states to report any payments made to teaching hospitals and physicians. The goal is to create transparency regarding the financial relationships among doctors, hospitals and these companies. This information will be available to the general public, which means it can also be accessed and reviewed for relevance when evaluating a potential medical malpractice case.

Specific payments can include purposes such as consulting, travel, research and gifts. The data will be collected by CMS on a yearly basis. It will be made available to the public through a searchable database on the CMS website. The release date for the new transparency program data is September 30 of this year. No assumptions or conclusions by CMS will be made. The point is to allow the public to apply the data to circumstances in which they are involved, or simply to monitor the information. Teaching hospitals and physicians, as well as other groups, will also be able to double-check that the information provided is accurate. This doesn't apply only to Medicare or Medicaid providers. All medical doctors, dentists, optometrists, osteopaths, podiatrists and licensed chiropractors will be included.

Open Payments is encouraging the public and healthcare consumers to access the data as they need to make informed decisions about procedures and treatment. A personal injury victim, when evaluating the facts pertaining to a possible medical malpractice, may find this type of information useful. When seeking compensation for injury or loss due to physician error, misdiagnosis or neglect, the possibility that treatment choices were influenced by some kind of financial gain could be relevant.

As with many government programs, navigating the database may be difficult. If the choice has been made to pursue a legal remedy for personal injury relating to medical care, seeking professional assistance with investigation and legal decisions can help ensure a more positive outcome.

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "Open Payments: Creating Public Transparency Into Industry-Physician Financial Relationships" Sep. 12, 2014

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