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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 …read more    

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