CMS has released new data.

Optometrists received payments amounting to $39.6 million in 2016 from drug and medical device makers and group purchasing organizations, according to newly released federal data.

The American Optometric Association reports that the total included approximately 220,400 payments. The numbers were up from 2015, when doctors of optometry received $39.4 million in about 172,250 payments.

The figures come from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. the reporting is part of CMS' Open Payments transparency program.

AOA explains that the reported payments can be for travel, lodging, research, grants, consulting fees, food and other purposes. They can come in a variety of forms, ranging from cash to in-kind services.

AOA notes: "CMS does not prohibit these payments; in fact, it calls them mutually beneficial because they 'contribute to the design and delivery of life-saving drugs, devices, biologicals, and medical supplies.'"

Plus, provided the relationships don't create a conflict of interests for doctors, transparency can help build trust between patients and doctors, say two members of the AOA Ethics and Values Committee (EVC). 

Dr. Kenneth Lawenda, a member of the AOA Ethics and Values Committee, said: "As optometrists, we have a moral obligation to abide by our Standards of Professional Conduct (section on relationships with industry). The Open Payments program provides an additional level of confidence in the doctor-patient relationship by providing another layer of openness and transparency that patient care is not influenced by conflicts of interests."   

Dr. Doug Totten, chairman of the committee, added: "The availability of accurate and understandable data can be a helpful resource for the public as it can help promote accountability between providers and industry and aid the evaluation of individual providers. However, it is critical that the information presented in the Open Payments system be correct, so each optometrist should verify the information being presented to the public. Inaccurate or poorly defined information may actually harm a doctor-patient relationship when no wrongdoing was intended or had occurred."   

The AOA stated: "Doctors should know what payments manufacturers and purchasing organizations are reporting to CMS, not only to make sure it is accurate, but also to be able to respond to patient inquiries in this age of transparency. Doctors can review their records at openspaymentsdata.cms.gov or they can contact AOA Regulatory Policy Specialist Jensen Jose in the AOA's Washington office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if they have questions or problems with disputed data. Doctors have until the end of the calendar year to dispute data for 2016, any incorrect data will remain in the public database until CMS' next scheduled update."

Read more at AOA

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