The planner of any reasonably well-run meeting or conference should be able to tell the executives of the company executing it who attended, as well as how much was spent to bring them to the destination, house them, feed them, and provide speakers and other experts to educate them. Now imagine that if you leave out something as minor as an attendee's middle initial, the government could levy stiff fines, drag your CEO before a hostile congressional committee, and publicly shame the firm.
Welcome to the medical meeting planner's life, in which any "transfer of value" of more than $10 must be reported. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 1,442 pharmaceutical companies paid $6.45 billion to some 607,000 U.S. physicians and other healthcare professionals, generating more than 11.37 million records, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The vast majority came from meetings and events ranging from small continuing education classes over dinner to citywide trade shows.
But there is a silver lining: the pharmaceutical industry's pain is creating meeting tracking tools that can easily be adapted to other industries. "What we are seeing overall is the new requirements are adding significantly [to] data accuracy and automation of what historically have been manual processes," says Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events. "Our sophisticated clients are looking at compliance as a competitive advantage -- how they can leverage these reporting requirements to bring their program to the next level in terms of visibility, in terms of accuracy of information, and in terms of insight, so that they can better direct their investments."
That information is "very relevant across the board and you're seeing that in different industries," says Jouaneh, whose firm offers a full suite of medical meeting tracking tools.
Compliance Is Key
Tracking what is spent on meetings is a trend not limited to the pharmaceutical industry. In the recent Successful Meetings "Procurement Trends Survey," three quarters of internal corporate planners said their company's procurement department is either "somewhat or very involved" in managing meetings spend. "Compliance is a good thing in all industries," says Pat Schaumann, director of professional development, healthcare sector, for Meeting Professionals International.
But the value of the exceptionally robust tracking tools pioneered by the pharmaceutical industry is not limited to ensuring planners are complying with budget and preferred vendor guidelines. It can be used to see which sessions and speakers are getting better attendance, while helping determine whether messages and education are being understood.
There is also compliance with laws and rules on keeping data safe. "When pharma firms started tracking and going to strategic meetings management, other industries really stood up and took notice," says Judy Johnson, CMP, HMCC, president of healthcare compliance consulting firm Tracdanmic Enterprise Consulting. "And I would say, once again, pharma is probably leading the way in security of data."
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This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.