A Healthy Plan featuring Bishop-McCann Account Director Amber Heintz, CMP-HC, HMCC
They must handle logistics as well as track, collect and report all forms of payments and “transfer of value,” including gifts, speaking fees, taxes and gratuities, involving doctors, researchers and other Health Care Professional (HCP) attendees.
They must report the data, including attendee credentials and demographic information, to client companies for reporting to regulatory authorities. They must comprehend and keep up with complex and constantly changing laws, rules and regulations governing HCP attendees. They must negotiate with hotels to surmount the combined challenges of a seller’s market for hotels; caps on F&B and guest room spending; limits on using luxury properties; and notoriously short meeting lead times in the pharmaceutical industry.
The obstacles will increase as the healthcare industry, the world’s largest employer, continues rapid growth, increasing demand for medical meetings. Planning medical meetings has so many obstacles that even veteran healthcare industry planners trip up.
“Another mistake some planners make is assuming that all companies’ business practices are the same. Be aware that there is an element of interpretation when it comes to some compliance issues. Practices may vary from company to company.” Amber Heintz
Training is Key
In addition to obtaining training, planners must keep a keen eye on changes in regulations governing pharmaceutical meetings. According to Amber Heintz, CMP-HC, HMCC, account director at Bishop-McCann, a meeting, incentive and event company, “Be aware that what was compliant yesterday may not be compliant today, so stay plugged into resources that keep you up-to-date.”
Compliance Rules Vary
“Another mistake some planners make is assuming that all companies’ business practices are the same,” Heintz says. “Be aware that there is an element of interpretation when it comes to some compliance issues. Practices may vary from company to company.”
Indeed, one of planners’ biggest headaches results from the differing rules of the several authorities that govern the compliance and reporting of HCP spending. A key regulatory organization, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association (PhRMA), limits transfer of value to physician attendees to $100 at HCP-facing meetings.
Other regulatory sources include the Advanced Technology Association Code of ethics; the U.S. Open Payments Laws, part of the Affordable Care Act, which allows the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to levy financial penalties for incomplete, late or inaccurate reporting; and the Sunshine Act, which requires public reporting of payments to doctors and hospitals. In addition, each U.S. state and foreign country have their own rules as do medical industry organizations within every nation.
Tips From Experts
Heintz offers the following advice to help them HCP reporting process go smoothly. “Automating the process assists will avoid mistakes,” Heintz says. “Advising HCP attendees before the meeting what will be reported allows them to decide if this is something they want to participate in. Additionally, advise your vendors (venue, transportation, etc.) and internal teams at the beginning of the planning process what information you will need to collect.”
Heintz offers the following negotiation advice. “Be up front on your spending caps so the hotel knows what they are agreeing to and why the food and beverage minimum may or may not be an issue for you,” Heintz says. “If the room rate is an issue, be up front about it or choose a non-peak time of the week or year. Since lead times are getting shorter and shorter, know what you are looking for and only include hotels that fit this expectation,” Heintz says. “Be specific about what you need and what you are open to. Ask for concessions that will actually make a difference to the specific program without simply providing a general laundry list.” Finally, Heintz says, “Ask would I want my business? Is what I am asking for mutually beneficial?”
Properties that understand the complex needs of pharmaceutical meetings make a planner’s job much easier. “Such hotels are truly invaluable to the overall success of pharma meetings,” Heintz says. “They understand what is being asked of us and work side-by-side to find a solution that works for all. It saves time in trying to explain why we need the amount of space we do, why we need to stay within a certain spending restriction for F&B, and that understanding is everything.” Hotels that know little about how medical meetings function can contribute to compliance issues.
Hotels Seek Training
Keep in mind that spending caps don’t necessarily mean boring, tasteless food and beverage. “It simply means creative planning,” Heintz says. “Meal planning should be a partnership with the hotel chefs to ensure your program can benefit from their expertise in this important area.” Consult with a hotel’s chef after finding out what other groups are meeting on the property. “What are they offering?” Heintz says. “Could there be cost savings if menus are similar and can the chef buy in bulk?”