The Shift in Medical Meeting Promotion

kristine thumbnailThe 2008 conversation:

“I want all the billboards along the highway, 150 taxi tops, and 10 dioramas at the airport. Also, see if you can advertise in the bins where you place your shoes to be screened. I want my brand to be everywhere! Let’s also give out tissue boxes, pens and ice cream to everyone who visits the booth!”

The 2013 conversation:

“Let’s place an ad in the daily newspaper…and we will allow U.S. physicians to speak to a rep at our booth.”

The shift in medical meeting promotion has become evident over the past few years. In addition to extensive internal MLR reviews, many medical societies now require prescreening of media tactics, creative, messaging, location/distance from the exhibit hall, etc. Clients are unsure of what is acceptable and wary of pushing the promotional limits. With a large portion of U.S. meetings attracting international physicians, how do marketers target their U.S. physician base? Gone are the days of the big branded blitz.

If these hurdles weren’t enough, on August 1st, the long-delayed regulations of the Sunshine Act will go into effect. The Sunshine Act requires manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, biologicals, and medical suppliers covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Medicaid to report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) all payments or transfers of value to physicians, teaching hospitals, and other healthcare providers. This includes expenses related to the meetings industry, including travel, lodging, and food and beverage. Medical meetings will encounter the largest scrutiny under the Sunshine Act.

Although drug makers already follow PhRMA guidelines (est. 2009), the Sunshine Act will impose fines for failing to properly track and report on all meeting spending. The CMS will begin posting the information in a public database on its website in the fall of 2014. Physicians will be part of the public database, easily searchable for any “transfer of value” from a pharmaceutical company. This concerns many physicians, as it might give the perception that they have been “bought.”

There are 98,000 meetings in the U.S. each year that are for the continuing education of physicians. In addition to manufacturers and their agencies, outside industries such as hotels, restaurants, medical societies and publishers may feel the impact. Final rules for the Sunshine Act provisions of the Affordable Care Act are going to be complicated and interpretive for drug companies and agencies.

The future will tell—but could the Sunshine Act shift the paradigm in physician engagement toward further digital promotion, and not live events? Will there be more involvement with the localized meetings, decreasing the need for large-scale venues?

What will the 2014 conversation be?

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