The Physician Payment Sunshine Act (PPSA), which requires reporting of payments and in-kind services to physicians and other health care providers, also will be making those payments public on a website, with the amount spent by each company, per physician, per year. (See accompanying article.) This unprecedented transparency is causing pharmaceutical and medical planners to try to bring down the per-person cost of meetings and events even more so than they already have under the PhRMA Code.
The PPSA doesn’t provide spending limits, and the PhRMA Code recommendations are voluntary. As such, many companies are setting their own internal compliance caps for hotel stays, meals, and other related expenses that they feel will fall within a publicly accepted range. Here are few ways they’re saving money—which can be useful for any meeting and event organizer.
- “Companies are going from a few big programs to a large number of small events that don’t involve transfer of value (TOV) reporting, or they’re reforming functions to make everything secondary to the science,” says Bill Cooney, president and CEO of MedPoint Communications. “This helps makes the spend more defensible.”
Pfizer is one such firm moving away from large national one-size-fits-all educational events and activities. “Those aren’t tailored to meet the needs of doctors,” says Maureen Doyle-Scharff, senior director, team lead, medical education group for Pfizer, Inc. “The provider community is trending toward more boutique education.”
- Keep programs short and convenient. “Doctors need to attend study and continuing education meetings, but generally they want to spend as little time away from their practices as possible,” says Joe Lipman, CEO Summit Management Services. “A doctor will be equally excited if an event is in a less-expensive airport hotel as opposed to a more upscale and remote venue because it means they can get in and out quickly and get back to work, and that’s important.”
- Companies with international physician attendees not only have to worry about U.S. regulations, but each country has its own set of compliance limits. Some planners will take the lowest limit for the group of attendees and work backward from there to try to contain costs.
Even though many hotel companies have gotten used to working with pharmaceutical and medical spending limits over the past decade to help planners meet compliance requirements, there’s always room for even more negotiation.
- For lowering F&B costs, “use smaller plates and cups and the items will go a lot further. For coffee, instead of $7 per cup, you’ve dropped it to $3.50,” says Lipman. “You also don’t need a 12-oz. sirloin when you can order a 4-oz. petit filet with two tiger prawn shrimps, with risotto or mashed potatoes and a garnish of carrot and string beans. That takes the price down from $85 to $63.”
- Lipman also suggests asking the hotel to include breakfast in the room rate. If not, check to see if the hotel offers a fixed-price breakfast buffet, which is significantly cheaper than having a catered private meal. “Give attendees breakfast coupons and that way you can usually meet compliance issues.”
- Don’t just ask a hotel what its best rate is. Find out if there’s a government rate. If not, and the rate offered is above your limit, don’t just say “no thanks.” “If they say rooms are $339 but your budget is $229, ask if they’re willing to give up the $100 per night in return for getting a group of heads in beds that will also be spending money on room service and buying drinks,” says Lipman. “Talk to the general manager, because nine times out of 10 they don’t want to lose the business. A great hotel will negotiate.”