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iStock_000057116882_LargeI just returned from speaking at CBI’s 10th Annual Forum on Transparency and Aggregate Spend.  After 10 years and 3 CMS Open Payments reporting cycles, I’m struck by how uncertain the once bright future of the Sunshine Act is.  Overall, the industry remains mired in a transactional mud under increasingly gray skies.

Too many companies still obsess about putting the right transaction (or transfer of value or (ToV)) into the right bucket. Many others have not even started down the collection and reporting path.  CMS claims it’s neutral Switzerland and only interested in posting data.  From the conference pulpit, the Department of Justice preaches “look at the data because we are”, but the audience is not listening. Europe is getting into the game but in 40 different flavors.  The latest Open Payments data is already trumped and forgotten.

An Empty Future?

So where do we go from here?  U.S. events clearly show that transparency’s advertised benefits (a useful window into doctor/industry relationships and a reduction of conflicts of interest in research) have not happened.  Critics can’t wait to say “I told you so” and that this was all an anti-industry conspiracy.  Supporters are increasingly hard to find.

Unless we can tease out some useful insights from the data, we can send transparency to the trash heap as another in a long line of costly, clerical efforts. An effort that does not contribute to improving  people’s health or make healthcare less expensive.  We are at a crossroads.  Either we can step back from worrying about the reports and try to find a use for this data, or we can continue to argue for abandoning Sunshine, which is a non-starter.  It’s time for the industry to lead from the front.