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Physician demand for convenient ways to obtain CME credits is driving online-learning models—but not at the expense of live meetings.


Pharmaceutical Executive


Meyer looks for speakers who will be expert enough to answer physician questions, but practical enough that physicians can easily and immediately incorporate the learning into their practices. Meyer adds that speaker adherence to ACCME conflict-of-interest guidelines ensures that the information presented is unbiased. "Physicians want to hear from cutting-edge experts that are balanced in their views so the physicians can make their own decisions based on that information," she says.

Extras

Although it's challenging to get medical education providers to mention activities and special events as attendance determinates, the reality is hard to ignore: 58 percent of respondents to PT&MG's study cited activities and special events as important factors in their decisions to attend CME meetings.

In the wake of corporate scandals, providers are understandably stressing education over leisure activities, but for out-of-town, multi-day conferences, the importance of time dedicated to relaxation should not be discounted. The PT&MG study indicates that on average, 47 percent of those who attend CME meetings requiring travel combine it with a vacation.

About two-thirds (69 percent) at least sometimes bring a spouse or companion to CME meetings that require travel, and about one-third (32 percent) bring children under 18.

Despite the fact that CME events do not pay family and spouse expenses nowadays, when considering a multi-day conference, clinicians frequently include family if the location is desirable, says CME LLC's Winkelman. "Shorter days also appeal to many clinicians when they choose to include family," she says.

Physicians like to see a well-rounded program, one that will give them the credits they need, provide them with education they can use, yet in an environment that is comfortable, where they know they will have time to interact with their peers during meals and coffee breaks, Pentz says. "However, many attendees like to have time to get in a round of golf, even if now it is on their own dime," she adds.

New industry guidelines preclude sponsored golf and lavish entertainment. Planners need to be creative with the location if it is not a draw in and of itself. "Physicians want to enjoy the experience so planners should use themes and get creative with food and beverage," Montague says.

While the blatant excesses of years ago are nowhere to be found in today's CME meetings, planners should not scrimp on food and beverage, Pentz says. "Get the best quality food the group can afford. If you are going to do a food function, do it right," she says. "Physicians expect first-rate food and beverage."

"In today's CME meetings, we are always looking for creative food and beverage to make an experience as good as it can be within current guidelines," says Hyatt's Weiss. She advises planners to ensure a venue's service level is up to par before booking.

For providers avoiding resorts, downtown venues, where attendees can go out and entertain themselves, are good options.

CME meetings have grown steadily over the last decade—a trend that's expected to continue. Over one-quarter (29 percent) of respondents to the PT&MG study anticipate their attendance at meetings to increase, while only 8 percent say it will decrease. About two-thirds (63 percent) anticipate their attendance staying the same.

While meeting attendance may grow, it's likely to change in nature, says Murray Kopelow, MD, CEO of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). "CME is becoming learner centered and it will be the individual physician's needs taken collectively that will drive the format and content of future CME meetings," he says.

Not only is CME an integral part of improving overall healthcare, but also consistent with pharma's goals, says Lotvin. "After all, the best pill in the world isn't doing any good if it isn't being prescribed to the right people."

Judy Williams is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She can be reached at


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