Medical meetings may have survived the economic downturn, but 2013 brings additional challenges to pharma meetings in the name of the Affordable Care Act. The most sweeping federal health care legislation since Medicare in the 1960s, this controversial law has dominated political debates ever since its 2009 passage. Because most provisions of the law go into full effect in 2014, for medical meeting planners, the challenge of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is now.
On one hand, the legislation opens up an opportunity for planners to educate meeting attendees about this array of new regulations. However, a provision in the law called the National Physician Payment Transparency Program imposes strict guidelines regarding the reporting of company payments and transfers of value made to physicians — which of course includes spend data related to physician-attended meetings. “I see it — and have heard meeting professionals and the industry overall see it — as a burden, i.e., understanding requirements, building processes and systems, monitoring data,” says Lisa Keilty, CMP, vice president of PMC2, a health care consultancy firm specializing in planning meetings and other events for health care providers. “But I also see it as a positive in understanding how the health care industry needs the expertise and innovation of physicians and other health care professionals to continue improving and investing in medical breakthroughs.”
Here are five examples of new and/or expanded medical complexes drawing the attention of medical meeting planners, and the industries and professions for whom they organize events.
New Orleans BioDistrict. The $3.3 billion New Orleans BioDistrict spans 1,500 acres in the downtown and mid-city areas of New Orleans. This vast complex is devoted to biosciences, medicine and health care, and includes the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, a 66,000-sf, state-of-the-art wet-lab, office and conference center, located near the Tulane and Louisiana State universities’ health science centers; the 1.6-million-sf U.S. Veterans Affairs Hospital, due to open in 2016; and the 34-acre University Medical Center, due to open by fourth quarter 2013. “It’s a huge district and already has made a tremendous impact on medical meetings here,” says Nikki Moon, vice president of convention sales, New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It is a resource for meetings for speakers, seminars and tours.”
The Global Center for Health Innovation, Cleveland, OH. Scheduled to open in October 2013, the $465 million Global Center for Health Innovation (formerly known as the Cleveland Medical Mart) and the adjacent, newly opened Cleveland Convention Center represents a 1-million-sf campus located in the heart of downtown Cleveland. The 235,000-sf Global Center has four themed floors: Health and Home; People, Patients, and Caregivers; Clinical Spaces; and Health Care IT. Global Center spaces will highlight the latest innovations and feature vendor showrooms, with an emphasis on technology. “We have certainly experienced a huge jump in serious inquiries and interest since it became apparent that the facility was going to open three months ahead of schedule and under budget,” says Tony Prusak, senior director of sales, Cleveland Convention Center. “Meeting planners are very positive about Cleveland and the new facility, especially when we’re able to provide an onsite tour of our facility and the terrific amenities in downtown Cleveland.”
Texas Medical Center, Houston, TX. The 1,000-acre Texas Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world, containing 50 medicine-related institutions, including 15 hospitals and two specialty institutions, three medical schools, four nursing schools, and schools of dentistry, public health, pharmacy and other health-related practices. The medical center is part of Houston’s downtown, which includes the George R. Brown Convention Center district, and will anchor two high-prolife medical meetings in upcoming years: the Medical World Americas in 2014 and the Human Genome Meeting in 2016.
“For the past five years, Houston has been actively pursuing business that is international in scope,” says Jorge Franz, vice president of international group sales and tourism, Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Due to the partnership that we have with the Texas Medical Center, we can now tap into the vast resources available there to not only attract the meetings to Houston but to assist in the creation of programs for medical meetings, helping to identify expert speakers for conferences that come to Houston and even assist in sponsorship efforts.”
Lake Nona Medical City, Orlando, FL. The 650-acre Lake Nona Medical City, located near the Orlando International Airport and only 15–20 minutes from the Orange County Convention Center, serves as a home to the University of Central Florida Health Sciences Campus, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Burnett Biomedical Sciences Building, Sanford-Burnham Institute for Medical Research, Nemours Children’s Hospital, Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center (2014), M.D. Anderson Orlando Cancer Research Institute, and the University of Florida Academic and Research Center.
“The technology available to see while touring at Lake Nona Medical City provides a very unique window of cutting-edge approaches to medical research, education and clinical care,” says Rob Adams, vice president, Lake Nona Medical City. “The collection of these institutions in a new development is unique in the country. There has been over $1.4 billion in active and completed construction here over the past six years, and the scale of the facilities continues to impress visitors. Beyond the physical scale, though, people walk away impressed with the possibilities of what can happen here with this collection of talent and facilities all in such close proximity.”
Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Las Vegas, NV. Las Vegas’ medical meetings business was bolstered by the Lou Ruvo Center, which opened on May 21, 2010 and was designed by renowned architect, Frank Gehry. The state-of-the-art facility is a leader in current research and scientific information for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s diseases, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) as well as focusing on prevention, early detection and education. While the impact on medical meetings remains to be measured, the center — and the medical community of Las Vegas — receives immeasurable publicity by hosting star-studded, fundraising extravaganzas that feature celebrities such as Teri Hatcher, Lorraine Bracco and Kevin Spacey, and are personally catered by Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse. — TH
“I would say that these restrictions are probably affecting the health care association niche the most as sponsored events are under scrutiny,” says Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, president of Meeting IQ and founder of the International Medical Meeting Professionals Association (IMMPA). “The Physician Payments Sunshine Act, now renamed the National Physician Payment Transparency Program: Open Payments, has affected the health care meeting industry significantly. The way planners manage their meetings (requires) a new skill set.” Schaumann adds that the complicated regulations are made more difficult by misinformation in the industry.
Schaumann points out that the extent to which the new regulations will affect medical meetings is still being discovered. “My prediction is that compliance in meeting management will begin to seep in all segments of our industry,” says Schaumann. “Increased transparency and accountability will be required.”
Schaumann emphasizes that because the “transfers of value” from manufacturers to physicians will be under tighter regulation and higher scrutiny, spending on pharma meetings will be reduced. “Certain new rules are in place, such as meal caps, honoraria and other reportable items,” she says. “With the adherence to health care compliance laws and regulations, budgets are changing,” says Schaumann. “You will definitely not see the lavish spend on physicians that existed in the past.”
In terms of the new regulations, a wait-and-see attitude persists. “The jury is still out as to how the physicians are going to respond to the reporting of the receipt of goods and in-kind services,” says Deborah Hinson, partner/brand manager, The Hinson Group, and newly named president of the International Medical Meeting Professionals Association. “Until then, we’ve adapted to the increased guidelines. We’ve had to increase staff to manage the reporting aspects of the Affordable Care Act. It will increase the cost of doing business for most pharmaceutical companies, third-party planners and CME (Continuing Medical Education) educators.”
The Hinson Group specializes in planning CME-oriented and other events for smaller groups (fewer than 100 attendees) of health care professionals. While the full impact of the new regulations is still to be determined, there has already been some erosion around the edges of this meeting industry sector due to other economic factors. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in video teleconference events within this sector,” says Hinson, who was recently named planner of the year by the MPI Gulf States Chapter. And while the number of medical meetings does not seem to be declining, Hinson says, “Generally, we are seeing a decrease in the number of attendees per event. Medical meetings would probably be considered ‘B’ tier business by vendors at this point.” She adds, “Budgets seem to be static.”
In spite of flat spending trends, these smaller, more corporate-driven events, are seen as healthy, compared to other segments of the meetings industry. “Overall the pharma meeting market is strong,” says Bonnie Weiss, director, global pharmaceutical sales-Americas, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, but she points out that there have been some noticeable effects of flat spending trends. “I think larger meetings are a bit smaller than they had been; I’m seeing more airport meetings, which reduces transportation costs.”
In addition, Weiss notes there’s been an increase in regional meetings, with some of the larger pharma meetings splintering into smaller events. “Instead of the national meetings, they are breaking them down to regional meetings, which saves costs in airfare and travel. Also, there’s less time out of the office for participants, which is a factor.”
While a more austere environment permeates pharma meetings, Weiss notes that cutbacks are not exclusive to pharma. “It’s really just the attitude proliferating in corporate America — pharmaceutical companies are responding to those trends broadly affecting all businesses. The higher scrutiny is nothing new to this segment, I think they’ve already adapted to most of those regulations.”
According to the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA), attendance in the health care industry’s top 50 largest medical conferences increased 2.2 percent from 2010 to 2011, noting that first-time attendance at the large industry events climbed back and surpassed pre-recession figures from 2007. Health care associations are only one segment of the vast health care meeting industry: Pharma meetings span the spectrum of events, ranging from training for hundreds of sale reps by a single pharmaceutical manufacturer to events sponsored by that same company and attended by hundreds of health care providers.
“Pharma meetings are healthy,” says Schaumann. “The number of medical meetings has been increasing over the past four years. Anticipated growth is expected in 2013. There were over 90,000 CME dinner meetings in the U.S. alone in 2012, up about 3 percent from 2011. Since 2007 approximately $2 trillion a year is spent on health care in the U.S. In 2013, it is targeted for $3 trillion. In the U.K., in 2012, $186 million was spent on health care meetings, an increase from 2011.”
Schaumann adds, “As long as there are medical needs, new drugs, new medical devices, biologics, animal health, allied health, etc. there will always be investigator meetings, clinical trials, research and development meetings, advisory boards and CME.”
According to Keilty, pharma planners, in spite of budgetary cutbacks, stricter regulations and increased uncertainty, are upbeat: “The current attitude of the pharma planners is one of strength in numbers. Many health care professional meeting planners that work within this space realize that they need their service providers and suppliers more than ever.”
Pharma meetings involve a diverse array of events. For example, pharmaceutical companies will host events that in addition to informing practitioners about a newly introduced drug can also fulfill CME requirements. In addition, non-physicians, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who also can dispense prescription medications and have similar continuing medical education requirements to maintain licensure, in many cases do not attend the same events as doctors and require separate but equal meetings. To further complicate matters, there’s a greater use of meeting consultants and third-party planners for pharma events compared to other types of meetings.
Regardless of this diversity, Keilty sees the positive outlook among pharma meeting planners going across the board. “I have worked with many meeting professionals both internally while I was in the corporate world and externally, i.e., third-party agencies,” she says. “I have seen an upbeat feeling in that the meeting professional is finally being recognized as a true business partner and formal function of a company. Many meeting professionals finally have the seat at the table to review spend, negotiate and leverage business globally as well as bridge the gaps between compliance, legal and operations.”
From the perspective of destinations, pharma and health care meetings have become a sought-after sector. For example, pharma meetings have been a growing portion of the meetings business for New Orleans, even though Nikki Moon, vice president of convention sales, New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, has noticed the inevitable austerity in recent months. “The meetings seem a little smaller in size, and maybe for two days instead of three. The number of pharma meetings is growing; we are getting more of them. Price is more of a factor than it may have been as well.”
Moon highlights the number of hotel properties and packages the Big Easy can offer as being a major reason why a robust pharma meetings industry continues in New Orleans: “The meetings tend to be very intensive, so right after, people want to have fun, a great meal, some great music. New Orleans is very walkable, and with the hotel packages we can offer, doctors can go right from the seminar to the French Quarter.”
For the meeting itself, the destination should understand the various idiosyncrasies of pharma and other medical meetings. “Once the clinical trials are completed and the pharmaceutical company makes the decision to get the product to the marketplace, they have to start getting classes started and training,” says Moon. “This decision happens very fast, and they are looking for destinations that have ease of doing business and are flexible, working short-term with a fast turn-around…so a destination and a facility have to meet those needs.”
“Short-term availability is a hot topic,” agrees Susan Zeiri, director of pharmaceutical sales, Visit Orlando. “Pharmaceutical companies are looking for facilities that offer varied meeting space to fit the specific needs of their programs. Our hotels offer not only a wide variety of guest room product, but our hotels offer unique meeting space of all sizes that suit pharmaceutical district breakouts, regional meetings and of course larger general session space.”
In addition to the flexibility, austerity is also more of a factor for a destination. Schaumann cites the obvious suspects: “Less five-star properties, resorts, golf, etc.” According to Hinson, the facility and destination should be “One that meets the criteria: ‘modest’ by standards, not in a resort or spa destination; one that passes the ‘sniff’ test; and then one that will drive attendance,” she says, adding some of the specific criteria include: “Completely private rooms, high ceilings, AV capabilities, excellent food and service.”
Many destinations have created new or expanded medical complexes — such as the New Orleans BioDistrict, the Global Center for Health Innovation in Cleveland and the Texas Medical Center in Houston — that are being promoted by CVBs and other hospitality/meeting professionals to further attract medical meetings (see box below).
These medical centers offer expertise related to the new regulations. “The management and staff of the Global Center for Health Innovation and the Cleveland Convention Center have undertaken education and training to fully understand and meet the needs and regulatory requirements of this industry,” says Tony Prusak, senior director of sales, Cleveland Convention Center. “We recognize that the health care meeting professionals need to work with service providers to provide concessions in the areas of specialty low-cost menus and other meal caps, attendee management concerns and tracking due to transparency reporting.”
The city is one example of an area that is building on existing business, not starting from scratch. “Cleveland is one of the nation’s medical capitals, making it a logical choice for health care industry meetings,” says Prusak. “This region is home to more than 700 biomedical companies, including billion-dollar industry leaders, and some of the nation’s premier health care providers, including the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. While we will be attracting health care association trade shows, conferences and meetings, the pharma meeting industry is no different in its needs for successful events — a great, high-tech facility with access to major health care industry and health care providers. Pharma meetings are a critical part of the entire health care industry ecosystem.”
Moon emphasizes that the New Orleans BioDistrict complex is proving to be an effective enticement for all health care meetings, but for pharma events, success has come by building on an existing track record. “The New Orleans BioDistrict is a great asset,” says Moon. “We are using it to sell New Orleans as a destination to medical meeting planners. But we already have a reputation with them, so it is giving us something new to talk about, and we have representatives from the facilities traveling with us to meeting industry events, so planners can work with them to create their events.”
Rob Adams, vice president, of the Lake Nona Medical City in Orlando points out that while the new complex does not host pharma meetings, “I think Orlando is interesting for medical meetings for a number of reasons. The facilities and convenience of the convention center are unmatched in the nation; it is home to one of the best airports in the country, not to mention its world-class attractions. When you combine those wonderful ‘meeting assets’ with some of the real world clinical, research and medical education work occurring in such unique manners here, it makes for a very compelling location for a medical meeting. The growing array of talented clinicians, researchers and medical educators who are calling Lake Nona Medical City home offers new opportunities for expert speakers for medical meetings in Orlando.”
When choosing a destination, Keilty looks for “highly knowledgeable and pharma-trained staff to understand the nuances of this industry and why medical health care meetings have the requirements and timelines they do. In addition, flexibility.”
The new medical complexes not only potentially add a new dimension to the meeting, they do so within the new austerity demands of this segment. “I think it is a great option for meeting professionals to consider,” says Keilty. “You have everything you need in one place and any consideration of inappropriateness of venue or lavishness is not likely to be there.” C&IT