Is it really getting more competitive for CME providers?

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According to a press release from the Medical Industry Conference Calendar Newsletter, the number of medical meetings being held annually has increased 50 percent since last year. Instead of an average of 20 medical meetings per business day (6,000 medical conferences, seminars, courses, and trade shows per year), now there are more than 30 per day, or about 9,000/year.

The rub is, medical organizations meetings and travel budgets aren t growing accordingly and, in fact, are shrinking at many institutions, it adds. Says newsletter publisher Dave Anast:

    "That means that 50 percent more medical meetings will probably be competing for the same sized budget pie during the next 12 months. Or, in other words, if you are a conference organizer, the odds of your capturing the same number of registrants for an upcoming event, have probably worsened by roughly 50 percent.

    "So if the odds were 1 out of 20 for a registrant to attend your particular conference on a particular day last year, the odds are now 1 out of 30 that a registrant will attend your event next month, instead of somebody else s event on that same day."

But this newsletter s data appears to be off a bit, according to the ACCME s Annual Data Report. While its numbers are for 2003, not this year, it shows a total of 66,000 total activities, not 9,000, and that s just what ACCME s accredited providers are doing, not the total scope of all CME activities, much less all medical meetings. Of course, this is for all CME activities, not just live meetings, but since conferences, the largest category of CME activities offered by providers, represented 59 percent of the directly sponsored activities, I think it's safe to say that 9,000/year figure is still very low. So does this mean that the situation is even more dire than that press release says?

According to the data report, the number of directly sponsored courses increased by 19 percent from 2002; it's hard to imagine it jumped so dramatically this year over last, but I guess it's possible it could be 50 percent.

But the data report also found that the number of physicians participating in CME activities grew 12 percent between 2002 and 2003. Unless something really awful has happened that I haven t heard about, I imagine this growth trend is continuing this year as well, so the potential participant pie should growing larger, albeit not as quickly as the number of activities offered.

And, from the newsletter s account, one would surmise that commercial support also might become scarcer if the pool of money available from supporters remained static. But it s not: Commercial support for CME has been growing by leaps and bounds, according to ACCME s report. Look for the September/October issue of Medical Meetingsfor a complete analysis, but total commercial support grew at almost triple the rate of total income for ACCME-accredited providers. It jumped more than 30 percent between 2002 and 2003, to more than $971 million in 2003, compared to $746 million in 2002. This is just the latest in a series of giant leaps: a 31 percent increase from 2001 to 2002; and a 23 percent increase between 2000 and 2001.

But do these numbers really seem meaningful to your organization? How competitive isthe CME market these days from your perspective?

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