Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 2013

Are Medical Meeting Professionals Ready for the Affordable Care Act?

By MIchelle Russell, Editor in Chief

” by offering additional regional conferences. “Two or three times a year, DOs are given the opportunity to earn up to 24 category 1-A CME credits at these smaller-scale conferences,” she said, which are held over weekends “to limit out-of-office time.”

The Exhibitor Piece

While Eberly said the exhibit hall at AMGA's 2013 Annual Conference “sold out early with a long wait list,” other medical associations — having already made significant changes to the way their meetings and education are funded — continue to reassess their exhibitor component in light of the PPACA. Under the AOA's Standards for Commercial Support, for example, the organization no longer offers CME credit to attendees who visit exhibitor booths during the meeting. “This could become more common after the recent implementation of the ‘Sunshine Rule’ of the ACA,” Ross said, “which calls for transparency in the relationships between manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologicals, and medical supplies and physicians.”

Scott thinks that the “consciousness” around transparency and conflict of interest is only going to keep “increasing, and so people are going to have to keep looking for different sources of revenue to support their CME activity,” he said. “Some of the specialties are so tied with pharma, like psychiatry, and certainly orthopedics with the device manufacturers — it's going to be an interesting transition.”

At ASNC, Flood said, it's time “to rethink how to connect vendors and our members.” One “final piece” of the PPACA that will directly affect her members — and therefore exhibitor participation at her events — “is the continuous cuts to reimbursement,” she said. “This is making it more difficult for practices to reinvest in new technology that is often safer and more effective than older products.”

Meanwhile, AOA has retooled OMED's trade-show floor “to offer more product-theater programs,” Ross said, “which are organized presentations from industry leaders on the latest news and research in topics like diabetes, pain, and sleep issues.”

While there is no CME credit granted for attending product theaters, “attendees are able to enjoy an additional educational experience,” she said, that “enriches” their overall conference experience.

‘We have a hybrid component now with our Annual Meeting where we record sessions and sync them to PowerPoint. But the goal is to really, truly do a hybrid event where folks can actually feel like they are part of that session.’ -Kerry Crockett

Virtual Medicine

Given the challenges that many health-care providers may have in leaving their office to attend a face-to-face conference, medical associations like AOA are also “exploring options for offering online sessions that run concurrently with live sessions” that take place at OMED, Ross said.

AOA has not yet started to offer these online sessions at its meeting, “because we want attendees to be able to receive 1-A CME credit for attending these sessions at OMED,” she said, but “we look forward to providing simultaneous webcasts in the near future.”

Going hybrid is “one of the things in the works” for USCAP's Annual Meeting, Crockett said. “We have a component of that now with our Annual Meeting where we record sessions and sync them to PowerPoint,” she said, but the goal is to “really, truly do a hybrid event where folks can actually feel like they are part of that session. We don't do the type of hands-on sessions other [medical meetings may offer] — for example, different techniques in terms of surgical procedures. We are doing a hands-on event at our Annual Meeting this year, which is an ultrasound event for startup pathologists, for those that do fine-needle aspiration. We are trying to figure out how that is going to translate to a virtual audience — I think that is going to be challenging. You are not going to have that same experience as you would live. The didactic lectures are the ones we are certainly thinking would be beneficial to stream live and then give [the virtual audience] an opportunity to ask questions to the moderator and that sort of thing. That is where we were thinking that we would find what could be of most benefit to the attendee.”

As the PPACA is gradually enacted, one thing that is clear is that medical meeting professionals need to stay attuned to their particular communities. “We are continuously asking our members what they need,” NJAFP's Saputelli said, “to lift the cloud of uncertainty under which they have practiced for far too long.”

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