Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 03 2012

The Future of Medical Meetings

David McMillin

Whether you were in favor of the Affordable Care Act or against it, President Obama's reelection assured that recent healthcare reform is here to stay. At PCMA's Medical Meetings Think Tank, held November 13 – 14 at the MGM Grand in Detroit, Obamacare took center-stage as medical meeting planners worked to understand the potential implications for their attendees.

"We don't know how the Affordable Care Act will roll out, but we know it's going to be significant," Debra Zabloudil, CAE, FACHE, President and CEO of The Learning Studio, and Think Tank facilitator, said.

Here's a look at what doctors and nurses will be dealing with in the near future - - and what that means for their ability to attend face-to-face gatherings.

The Need for New Lessons

While healthcare experts may have mastered the science of medicine, the Affordable Care Act means that they need to study the art of dealing with new types of personalities, attitudes and health habits.

"My attendees are going to have to relearn people skills," one Think Tank participant said.

Many physicians will need to adjust to treating people who have never been inside a true healthcare facility. With an influx of low-income patients, planners discussed the need for new courses that address cultural sensitivities and diversity training for physicians and nursing staffs.

"Social workers will need to teach our physicians and nursing staff members to work with those in the inner city who have never had access to care before," the participant continued.

Cash Concerns

As insurers are expected to cover more preventative services, the industry will increase its focus on improving the quality of patient care while reducing its overall costs. It's a results-driven approach that carries serious implications for the bottom line at all medical facilities.

Some Think Tank participants noted that high-income doctors in subspecialties will feel negative financial consequences, and much of the education they offer at their meetings will need to address strategies for saving money.

As the healthcare industry comes to grips with more paperwork and more regulations, planners may face financial challenges, too. Planners in Detroit noted a need to proactively explore alternative funding sources for their face-to-face gatherings.

"We may see quite a few layoffs in the pharma industry, which would carry over to impact our sponsorship dollars," another participant said.

More Patients = Less Time for Meetings

With more paperwork, more patients and more medical coding, plenty of healthcare professionals are going to be dealing with some very busy schedules in the future.

"If my members have more patients, it gives them less time to attend meetings," one participant said.

While some doctors and nurses may not be able to attend meetings and conferences, others who want to attend may struggle to make the commitment until much later in the registration cycle. With more patients, even your most loyal attendees may not be able to commit immediately, Zabloudil warned.

Challenges Create Opportunities

Clearly, some members of the healthcare system will be dealing with more patients and more work, but the Affordable Care Act paves the way toward opportunities for some professionals in "fringe" specialty areas such as yoga, massage and hypnotism. While traditional care includes expensive exams and technologies, these alternative approaches to wellness fall in line with the key principle of the reform: they're affordable.

Additionally, some participants commented on the potential to drive more members toward online CE. While all planners want to bring their attendees together in-person, the increased workflow means that they should explore monetization strategies for virtual learning.

Regardless of how medical meeting attendees will learn moving forward, it's clear that they will have plenty of educational needs. Be sure to check back for more insights into how planners can meet those learning gaps in the future.

For more coverage on how Obamacare will impact exhibitors, the August issue of Convene.

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