Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 2014

Notes From The Medical Meeting Summit

By Barbara Palmer, Senior Editor

professionals from across the United States who formed a telephone study group to prepare for the test. Members divided up the items on the domains and met three days a week on one big conference call, Winstanley said. Under normal circumstances, it might have been difficult to stay engaged on a long, voice-only conference call with 19 other people. But the group was “intent on paying attention and staying tuned in,” she said. “There was such a large breadth of information to go over.” The study group's methods proved to be successful — of its 20 members, 19 passed the test, Winstanley said.

Winstanley is the first supplier to be awarded the CMP-HC — a distinction that she expects will make her a savvier, more valuable partner to medical meeting clients. It also will help her deal with clients who don't always fully understand the regulations that their groups must operate under, she said. And she anticipates that her specialized knowledge will help her communicate the challenges of the market to hotel leadership, who aren't well versed in nuances like food caps and FDA timelines. She sometimes walks a fine line, she said, between explaining the regulations and the risks associated with health-care meetings to hotel management and educating clients on the ramifications to the hotel.

Professional validation

The CMP-HC is intended in part to validate the knowledge that medical meeting planners already have accrued in their professional careers. “It is a statement of our commitment to raise the level of professionalism in the industry,” Krugman said. “It says: ‘I am aware of my value, and I am willing to invest the time, energy, and resources to advance to the next level in my profession.'”

The CMP-HC is CIC's first subspecialty credential, but Krugman thinks it may not be the last. “As the various segments of our industry grow and become more complex, subspecialty competency will become increasingly important,” she said. “There is also the fact that, unfortunately, some practitioners of our profession aren't getting it right. And when they don't, we are all under a microscope. The importance of recognized professional standards is really critical, whether or not you have a specialty.”

PUBLIC REPORTING NEARS

That was clear throughout the summit, where meeting rooms buzzed with debate about complying with the growing number of global health-care regulations. Discussion revolved not just around the mechanics of regulatory compliance, but the problems of providing hospitality in an environment where the availability of resources has undergone fundamental change. Medical meeting planners are challenged to be as creative as possible with funds that, because of new laws and regulations, often are drastically reduced from what they used to be.

“It's a whole new way of doing business,” Krugman said, “not just for planners, but also for hotels that are finding it difficut to maintain the same profit margins on these meetings as before. Everyone has to become more creative and good planner/supplier relationships are even more critical in this highly regulated atmosphere.”

One of the most talked-about topics was the upcoming deadlines for the Open Payments program, under which almost all financial interactions — including payments, gifts, and meals — between physicians and the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical-device industries, and GPOs (group purchasing organizations) will be reported on a public website. The program was established by legislation called the National Physician Payment Transparency Program: Open Payments as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The goal of Open Payments is to create more transparency for the public about financial interactions between physicians and GPOs and the pharmaceutical, medical-devices, and life-sciences industries. The public website is scheduled to be live starting in late 2014.

The Open Payments program is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which issued a final rule last year regarding how the regulations about reporting should be interpreted and applied, and fields questions submitted on its website. “The CMS's final rule is my bible — but there are conflicts,” Schau-mann said. “There is not always clarity.” (One presenter at the summit got a laugh by illustrating her talk with the cover of Fifty Shades of Grey.)

There are notable exemptions to Open Payments’ reporting requirements, including F&B, educational materials, and some payments that are part of accredited continuing medical education — but those guidelines aren't simple either. The CME Coalition, whose mission is “to represent and promote the interests of CME among the nation's policymakers,” has published a 26-page “Compliance Guide for the Sunshine Rule,” and an additional 24-page FAQ.

GENIES IN A BOTTLE

The Open Payments program is only part of the growing thicket of regulations that many medical meeting professionals must navigate. “I think of [health-care planners] like genies in bottles who serve many masters,” said Schaumann, who is the author of Breaking the Code to Healthcare Compliance. Their first master, she said, is the law — not just federal regulations, but state and international laws. At least seven U.S. states have enacted their own regulations, which may differ from federal requirements, and mandate more stringent reporting.

Additionally, Schaumann said, about 40 percent of the 196 countries in the world have their own compliance laws —“many of which,” Richman noted, “are also more aggressive than the Physician Payment Act in the U.S. It can be pretty intense. You may have physicians from 10 or more different countries” at your meeting, with different sets of requirements for each.

Many pharmaceutical, biologic, and device manufacturers have devised their own internal compliance policies, which may differ from policies outlined by Open Payments or state regulations, Schaumann said. Some also might operate under rigid “Corporate Integrity Agreements,” negotiated with the federal government as a result of violations of regulatory laws. And that's something the companies’ own planners — as well as the planners of conferences that the companies’ employees attend — have to be on top of.

CODES AND MORE CODES

And finally, industry associations maintain their own codes of conduct. In the United States, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) create codes governing physician-sponsor interactions, while major global regulatory players include the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA).

The CMP-HC, which covers all of those areas, will continue to evolve as the regulations and the industry itself change, Dahlman said. As with the CMP, those who hold the credential will have to recertify every five years.

A medical meeting planner can't hold the CMP-HP without a valid CMP credential, underscoring the fact that medical meeting planners also face challenges that have nothing to do with compliance. The summit recognized that, Richman said, and included presentations on creating attendee engagement, as well as on hybrid meetings — a topic she expects will continue to be important. “Regulations are always the No. 1 topic,” she said, “but planners also kind of roll their eyes and say, ‘We've talked about this way too much.’”

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