A Fertile Educational Environment
The healthcare convention remains a major factor in the way physicians (and other healthcare providers) obtain continuing
education credit. In a recent survey, Physician Views on CME Issues, at
http://WhatDoctorsThink.com/ (January 2008), 84 percent of the 600-plus physicians who responded said their preferred way to get CME credits was at conferences
and meetings (see figure 1).
Figure 1. How Physicians Prefer to Get CME Credits
While these data indicate that medical conventions and meetings are an important venue for obtaining scientific information,
the concern here remains the discussion and exchange of information on the exhibit floor.
Understand: I am not stating that CE activities are to be conducted at the commercial exhibit. That is entirely inappropriate.
Indeed, specific activities related to CE activities sponsored by a commercial supporter are expressly prohibited. For instance,
you may not distribute content, or discuss content that is off-label, or have computers that the exhibit staff uses to direct
the attendees to the content.
But if you are a commercial supporter who has included a CE activity in your convention mix, there are things you can do.
Assuming you have permission from the accreditor, you can distribute invitations that include product information. You can
have a poster about the CE activity that states when, and where the activities are taking place and who is conducting them.
And you can distribute BRCs (business reply cards) for the purpose of requesting enduring materials.
If an enduring CE piece is to be distributed following the event, it would be wise to consider including in the grant to the
CE provider the funds to purchase booth space at the meeting in order to distribute the CE content on-site to the conference
Here are some additional strategies you might employ:
Broaden your exhibit To encourage the exchange of scientific information, improve the quality and content of your exhibit. Start by making sure
those who are staffing the booth are well informed. All too often the staff at commercial exhibits do not understand their
audience. While it is understood that booth personnel's comments and discussions must stay within the approved product labeling,
the message should be tailored to meet the needs of the meeting attendees. It is unacceptable for booth personnel to simply
serve as distributors of tchotchkes. Evaluate the mission of the exhibit. Make sure staff and mission are in sync.
Diversify your staff Diversifying the staff helps promote better and more meaningful scientific discussions at the exhibit area. Members of companies'
medical science liaison teams have long attended medical meetings, and it is becoming quite common to see "scientific booths"
or sections within a commercial exhibit that are staffed by MSLs. Additionally, it is a good idea to have appropriate personnel
from departments such as medical, scientific communications, and perhaps even regulatory affairs in attendance along with
the MSLs. A scientific booth/area combined with the right mix of personnel will foster an environment of peer-to-peer discussions
and higher-level discussions.