Being a meeting planner in any industry requires attention to detail and the ability to assimilate many pieces of information at once. It means keeping on top of fluctuating circumstances and the complex needs of many people – much like a health care practitioner who must stay abreast of ever-evolving research, treatments, technologies and patient needs.
Now imagine combining these complex skill sets in the person of the medical meeting planner. Today, it’s more important than ever for conscientious professionals to know the laws that govern planning and financial reporting for events attended and held by health care organizations. And the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012, has added a further level of complexity to an already complicated field. A provision of the law known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act is one to which medical meeting planners should pay special attention, as it governs the reporting of financial relationships between doctors and medical suppliers such as drug and device makers.
The new regulations can seem daunting – and consequences can be serious for manufacturers and providers who fail to follow them, says St. Louis-based meeting professional Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP. But thanks to a new book and certificate program, there’s help for planners, providers and suppliers needing to educate themselves on the fine points of the law.
Clearing the air
“Health care meetings are unique because of their level of government regulation,” says Schaumann, president of Meeting IQ and founding partner of the International Medical Meeting Planners Association (IMMPA). “There is confusion at all levels of health care provider organizations about what they have to report. Many companies, including big pharmaceutical and medical device firms, have ‘done their own thing’ in the past when it came to following regulations, without knowing what the law really says.” To illustrate that point, Schaumann says a recent Forbes magazine survey of 1,000 physicians found that the vast majority of respondents were not even familiar with the Physician Payments Sunshine Act.
Fortunately, new resources are on the horizon to help medical meeting planners, providers, and suppliers navigate an ever more confusing sea of regulations. Thanks to a new Health Care Meeting Compliance Certificate program offered through Saint Louis University’s Center for Workforce and Organizational Development, professionals can formally demonstrate their commitment to mastering these important regulations. The certificate program helps candidates understand the laws governing medical meetings in the U.S. and nearly 200
Schaumann has been working closely with SLU and IMMPA to develop the half-day certificate course, which debuts at Missouri Meetings and Events’ St. Louis Regional Expo in spring 2013 (see www.missourimeetingsandevents.com for more information).
“We will have a kind of ‘pilot’ or ‘test’ class at the Expo, but participants will receive the certificate for completing it,” Schaumann says. Expo attendees also will receive a 50 percent discount on the course’s regular cost, which is expected to be $795, including materials. Interested Expo attendees are encouraged to preregister for the course, but they also will be able to sign up on-site.
“The certificate is issued by Saint Louis University and endorsed by IMMPA, and will be kept on file at the university,” says Katherine Cain, executive director of SLU’s new Center for Workforce and Organizational Development, which officially opens its doors this year on the university campus. “This is the first certificate we are offering through the Center.” Cain says participants also can earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) by taking the course.
Once the certificate program launches at the MME Expo, it will become available on campus at Saint Louis University and at other professional conferences. It eventually will be offered online as well, according to Cain. “We will be able to do group certificate trainings at clients’ own sites, too,” she says.
All participants receive the certificate on completion of the class, which is designed to fit easily into professionals’ busy work schedules.
Turning the page
Course materials include a new resource guide by Schaumann, titled Breaking the Code to Healthcare Compliance. Released this year by Publishing Concepts LLC, the parent company of Missouri Meetings and Events, the book outlines medical meeting terminology and compliance resources for planners working domestically and abroad.
Class participants also will use a workbook written by Schaumann, and there will be instructor-presented material as well. The certificate is good for one year, and will be renewable by means of a refresher course.
There are three categories of participants for the certificate program: Meeting planners and suppliers; physicians and teaching hospitals; and manufacturers. Schaumann says she expects a variety of groups and large employers to sign up for the program. “We anticipate interest in group classes from companies such as restaurant and hotel chains,” she says.
Schaumann adds that once a participant receives his or her certificate, it will be listed on IMMPA’s website, so anyone can go online to see if a prospective partner has earned it.
Breaking down barriers
“We think this program will add some consistency of knowledge in a place where there isn’t much right now,” Schaumann says. “The reason we have the Physician Payments Sunshine Act and related laws is to lead to better patient care. It’s all about accountability and transparency. I’ve been around long enough to see abuses, including drugs issued when they are not the best thing for the patient.” She cites recent cases of major U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers hit with fines of nine figures or more due to noncompliance.
“The consequences of not following these regulations can be major,” she says. “This course will lead to good practices by all industries involved.
“The hospitality industry is on track to spend $13 trillion in 2013, and the health care industry is poised to spend about $8 trillion,” Schaumann says. “We are addressing two of the largest business segments in the country, and they come together under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. We’re offering this course as a way of opening everyone’s eyes to the importance of understanding these regulations, at home and abroad.”
“This is a very complex topic, and there’s a great deal of misinformation on it,” agrees Cain. “That’s why it’s so important to put the correct knowledge out there. Providing better care to each patient is the No. 1 concern.”
To learn more about Schaumann’s book, Breaking the Code to Healthcare Compliance, visit www.meetingcompliance.com.