Conference Capsule: Silos to Synergies in Med Ed

Nov 01, 2002

The 13th annual conference of the National Task Force on Continuing Medical Education Provider/Industry Collaboration, held in Baltimore, Maryland in early September, offered a balanced discussion of the challenges facing CME and helped broker a dialogue among all stakeholders-including representatives of industry, accrediting institutions, academia, and government-with an optimism missing from previous conferences.

Keynote speaker Fred Hassan, CEO of Pharmacia and chair of the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), addressed the new PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals. Hassan noted the need for a clear separation of education and promotion and spoke of the common ground that exists-and that can be expanded-between industry, accreditors, and others in the CME community.

Daniel Troy, chief counsel for FDA and a featured speaker, discussed the effects of DTC advertising on healthcare costs. He countered accusations that such advertising lacks educational merit and increases prescription costs. Troy maintained that DTC advertising spend, accounting for approximately 15 percent of industry's promotional pie, benefits consumers by providing health education and prompting them to treat otherwise neglected illnesses. He also said there is a lack of evidence that DTC advertising causes physicians to prescribe medications erroneously.

Troy reiterated a point made earlier by Hassan: that the legal environment surrounding the industry, particularly spiraling malpractice awards and the corresponding cost of insurance, is the most significant driving force in healthcare expenditures-not prescription prices or product promotion. He expressed his support for President Bush's plan to limit liability awards, citing it as an important measure in combating overall healthcare expenditures.

The participants addressed changes in approaches to CME itself. Dr. Nancy Davis, director of CME for the American Academy of Family Physicians, discussed the organization's evidence-based approach to physician education and outcomes. That evolving approach should increase opportunities and counter critics' claims by restoring CME's measurable effectiveness.

In multi-disciplinary breakout sessions, attendees discussed pharma and other organizations' support of CME, gifts to physicians, physician competence, and practice/systems-based learning, allowing for in-depth exploration of some of the most significant changes facing the industry.

The workshop sessions also helped identify silos between stakeholders and fostered discussion of strategies for achieving synergy. The call for further cooperation was strong and sincere, and if it continues, that may be the most significant change of all.