Day 1 at the Alliance conference: PACME session

This afternoon I went to the pharmaceutical alliance for CME session at the Alliance for CME conference in San Francisco. It ended up being a focus group on how well the Alliance is serving this section of its membership, and what the PACME members would like to see the organization do.

Most agreed that the biggest benefits they got from being Alliance members were the opportunities to network with other commercial supporters and CME providers, including third parties. Some participants said they particularly liked being able to find out how their peers are handling the challenges the regulatory changes of the past few years have brought, and educational sessions at the annual meeting (particularly those on collaboration, dealing with conflicts of interest, outcomes measurement, and new technology).

But when asked what the purpose of the Alliance is, there wasn't as clear a consensus. Some thought it was to help people provide compliant CME; others thought it was to be the voice of CME to the outside world. Given today's JAMA article (see post below), several people thought that the Alliance should take a more proactive role in getting out the news about what works in the current CME system, and why the commercial support model is a good one, not to mention practical.

"The greatest challenge we face is the reputation of pharma," said one person. "I'd like to see the Alliance take a very strong stand to support the value of CME, maybe in a white paper. Not just some random quotes in the newspaper. I'd like to see [the Alliance] be a more proactive advocate for industry." Another said, "We need better public relations to answer every charge that comes out in the newspaper." Some folks thought a possible partnership of some sort with PhRMA might be a good way to go to provide a unified voice for the CME enterprise as it currently stands.

There also was some talk about how useful it would be to have some standardized language when it comes to talking about CME, some common definitions of what outcomes measures are, for example. Again, a possible partnership of some sort with PhRMA might be useful in developing a common language to use when talking about CME, participants said.

Another hot topic was how to figure out which of the 600 CME provider proposals on their desks would be the best ones to support. Some thought an award for the providers who did the best job with needs assessment, programming, and outcomes measurement might be a way to help, though others thought some general guidelines on how to evaluate CME providers would be a better way to go.

I find it a very positive action on the Alliance's part to be actively seeking input from this segment of its membership. It will be interesting to see what the board makes of all this. I also was glad to hear that the Pathways to Collaboration (a CD that provided a CME 101-type course that PACME members can use to educate their colleagues and the CME providers that they work with on the basics of CME) is just a couple of months away from being relaunched as an updated, Web-based course with pre- and post-test. And that it now includes a section on outcomes measurement, which many in pharma still get a little worried about, thinking it means scrip-tracking instead of measuring performance improvement.

Tomorrow is packed with good stuff&@8212;I probably won't have time to walk around the city and get lost again like I did this morning, but it sure did feel good to get out and about a bit. Especially since I can do it without a coat on (love this California weather! I hear it snowed again today back home in New England).

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