Providers Are from Venus, Supporters Are from Mars - Pharmaceutical Executive


Providers Are from Venus, Supporters Are from Mars
Can this CME marriage be saved?

Pharmaceutical Executive

I asked the panel to comment on how this could be corrected. A commercial supporter on the panel pointed to the rollout of online grant-submission systems designed to ease the problem, only to have a number of the providers respond that these very systems often caused even more problems! What then followed, however, was a healthy dialogue between the two groups, which, if nothing else, led to an understanding of each other's points of view.

At another meeting, a provider asked a panel of commercial supporters why it was so hard to find the right person within some supporter organizations to ask to whom grants should be submitted or questions be directed. One observation was that not all supporters were alike; some appreciated presubmission questions, while others did not allow this to occur. Some providers relied on appropriate input from supporters, while others felt any presubmission contact was inappropriate.

Being able to put yourself in the shoes of another, or role-playing, goes a long way in helping to mend and strengthen a relationship: Supporters then might understand the difficulties providers face in preparing a grant request that has to fit in an online system with word-count maximums and standardized budget templates. Or they might find that five days (in some cases) may not be enough time to complete a grant request including budgets from collaborative partners. Or they might learn why providers cannot start working on an educational initiative until letters of agreement are signed and some payment is received.

In turn, providers walking in supporters' shoes might discover that it really does take a lot of time and effort to get that last signature on a letter of agreement. Or that grant-review meetings aren't all that much fun when a worthy grant request is reviewed, re-reviewed, and overanalyzed by a committee of people with limited understanding of CME. Providers might understand, too, the cringe factor that supporters experience at having to call a provider to let them know that the grant funding that had originally been approved has disappeared, never to be seen again. It isn't always fun being the bearer of bad news.

The result? Both parties may be surprised to find that, while their compliance challenges may differ, they have more in common than they realized, that the cost of not staying together far outweighs the difficulties of getting along, and, most importantly, that they have a common goal: educating healthcare providers and improving patient healthcare.

Lawrence Sherman is the president and CEO of The Physicians Academy. He can be reached at


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