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Politics, Policies, and the Future of Medical Meetings

A look at some of the trends that are driving pharmaceutical and other life sciences meetings

While it’s too early to call how today’s politicians will reshape healthcare policy in the U.S., it’s not too early to say that politics will play an important role in how healthcare professionals will work, operate their practices, and continue their professional development. And not just in the U.S.—changes are happening almost daily in how different countries regulate their healthcare systems—for example, Brexit likely will affect healthcare policy in the U.K., said Pat Schaumann, senior director of healthcare compliance, Maritz Travel Company, during a session on the future of medical meetings at Meeting Professionals International’s 2017 World Education Congress, held June 19–22 in Las Vegas.

In 2012, 35 countries had some type of compliance reporting requirements. “Now 89 countries have some sort of code, regulation, or guideline” related to transfers of value, or TOVs, from a pharmaceutical or other life sciences company to HCPs—in fact, the Economic Intelligence Unit predicts that 70 percent of pharma sales this year will be made in countries that have transparency laws, she said. And, she added, it is predicted that in the next three to five years, 100 percent of developed countries will have some sort of healthcare compliance reporting program.

There also are seven U.S. states that have their own rules. And, of course, each company has its own corporate policy, some based on the PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, a voluntary guideline released back in 2002. “We have many masters,” Schaumann said.

So even if the U.S. Open Payments reporting requirements were to disappear tomorrow, Schaumann said to expect companies to continue tracking and reporting their TOV data. “If a company were to stop compliance reporting, that would put a big target on their back,” she said. “It’s all about perception.”

Schaumann outlined a few other trends she believes we’ll be seeing more of in medical meetings:

Patients being included as speakers now that the healthcare model is moving toward a more consumer- and patient-centered mode of care delivery.

Going outside of the ballroom. Close to 100,000 medical meetings were held in restaurants in the U.S. last year, she said, adding that it’s important to ensure the restaurant has experience with the unique demands of medical meetings. “If not, find another venue; otherwise it will just make your job harder.” Other venue ideas include those that are built specifically for medical meetings, like the Oquendo Center in Las Vegas, the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation in Tampa, Fla.; and Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation. Cruises are also getting more traction for continuing medical education, she said.

Optics may be realigning with reality. While this was one of her predictions, not a data-based trend, Schaumann said she sees some indications that the ban on HCP meetings at upscale properties and those that have the word “resort” in their name may be lifting now that companies are realizing that they can meet their compliance needs, often at a better price point than venues that have been considered to be more perceptually palatable in today’s austere HCP meeting environment.

Virtual meetings on the rise. Holding satellite events in a number of cities saves the meeting organization a lot of money, and saves physicians time out of their practices, she said. Important considerations for successfully going virtual are reliable digital event platforms, online discussion forums, and the ability to meet budgetary and compliance needs.

A better experience. Citing the Ashfield Future of Meetings study released last year, Schaumann pointed out that HCPs want to have more input into their meetings, both before and during the activity, be out of the office no more than 2.7 days including travel time, and interactivity and peer-to-peer discussion.

A shortage of experienced, knowledgeable medical meeting professionals. While more than 1,200 people worldwide have earned the Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate LINK through Meeting Professionals International, the need for planners who understand the specialized needs of medical meetings is dire, said Schaumann. “There is just too much business” for the current level of trained medical planner professionals to cover. “We have a crisis.”



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