When thinking about all that’s required with planning a medical education meeting, consider for a moment the legal set of guidelines and strict budget restraints that must be adhered to. As the planner, you are responsible for ensuring that proper procedures are followed so the meeting’s sponsor remains compliant. For many years, there were widespread abuses of the rules and regulations in the healthcare industry. Pharma Reps wined, dined and bestowed Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) with gifts and in return, the HCPs would prescribe those certain brands of pharmaceutical drugs and/or medical devices. To prevent this unfair and unjust relationship from continuing, federal and local regulatory agencies established a standard set of procedures designed to ensure a meeting and its exchanges are authentic, ethical and transparent.
Trust within any industry is created by a company’s reputation. Violations of compliant practices in the healthcare industry are serious business. Having an effective healthcare compliance program helps a company avoid penalties, fines and a detriment to their reputation. For more specific information related to CME guidelines visit www.accme.org.
So let’s begin with the basics. Medical education meetings fall into two basic categories: Continuing Medical Education meetings also known as CME and Promotional Medical Education meetings. While both provide education about drugs, devices and treatments related to healthcare, each has different goals.
What Continuing Medical Education seeks to achieve is to offer HCPs a forum to continue or advance their knowledge of diseases, drugs, devices and treatments. Meetings are often funded by educational grants from pharmaceutical companies but are completely controlled by the CME provider. To maintain their medical license, most states require that physicians earn a certain number of CME credits each year. Educational meetings are planned to accomplish this goal and the presentations must be developed from credible research aimed towards providing education that will ultimately improve patient care. Important to note:
- The success of the meeting is measured by knowledge gained
- Attendees cannot be compensated for attending
- Attendees may be awarded CME credit for attending
Promotional Medical Education also provides education but with a different objective. Meetings of this nature are designed to promote the use of a specific drug or device. The materials presented must be derived directly from the FDA approved uses of the drug or device being discussed and can promote one drug over another. These meetings are funded and controlled by pharmaceutical companies. Key components include:
- The success of the meeting is measured by increased sales
- Attendees can be financially compensated for attending
- Attendees will not receive CME credit for attending
Enlisting the help of an On-Site Professional (OSP) is a critical consideration as it provides unbiased, third-party representation to serve as the intermediary between the HCPs in attendance and the meeting’s sponsor. Here are some examples of how this key role can best serve a Medical Education Meeting. While onsite, the OSP can:
- Serve as the on-site point of contact for the venue staff, speaker and on-site sales reps
- Greet attendees, manage registration and make sure the sign-in sheets are complete and legible
- Prevent unauthorized guests from entering the meeting
- Introduce the speaker, make opening remarks and remind the audience they are attending a CME meeting
- Collect evaluation forms and return them to the meeting planner or sponsor
- Make sure any sales representatives on-site are respectful and adhere to attendance regulations
- Offer real-time updates to end client via text messages or phone calls
- Review the bill for accuracy and remit payment
- Act in accordance with Open Payments regulations
- Provide detailed recap at end of meeting
In addition to the importance of compliancy, there are other important considerations to think about when planning a medical education meeting. Grant budgets for these meetings can be restrictive. When hiring local on-site professionals, you’ll see a substantial savings to your bottom line. Utilizing this resource means you won’t need to budget for travel expenses, lodging accommodations or spend a significant amount of time out of the office.
Whether you’re looking to hire an OSP to manage your next medical education meeting from beginning to end or to merely serve as a third-party registrar, consider it a safe measure in ensuring all of your hard work and planning will warrant a successful outcome.