What is in this article?:
- Dealing with Cost Constraints and Piles of Paperwork
- The Costs of Wasted Time
- Seeking Support Solutions
- Budgets and Reconciliations
Tightening budgets, increasing oversight, and growing piles of paperwork are big challenges for both continuing medical educators and commercial supporters. Here's a snapshot of what's driving some of these challenges, and some possible solutions that were floated at the 2012 Annual Conference of the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration.
Seeking Support Solutions
The challenges the provider panelists outlined were many, from complex submission processes to reduced funding, and communication snafus to time-consuming reconciliations. But what about solutions? The need to identify alternative funding sources outside of pharma was mentioned, as was increasing registration fees and growing the exhibition side of larger conferences. Lewis, who said his company had been working with non-pharma companies including fast-food chains and large alcohol distributors, said that alternative funding sources are great, but “it’s even harder working with outside companies than it is with pharmaceutical companies” because they want to control the content and the process. However, he said, even if it takes more time and energy up front, it’s worth the trouble.
One solution some commercial supporters are trying to reduce the backlog on the granting end is implementing a request-for-proposal, also called a “call for grants application,” something that three-quarters of the audience said they support, though not necessarily as the sole way to apply for grants. Companies like Pfizer that now are using an RFP process for more than 75 percent of their grants have seen the number of grant requests decrease, while the acceptance level has shot up due to a better alignment of proposals with a supporter’s areas of interest. Companies also are posting more information on their clinical areas of interest to their grant Web sites in hopes that providers will pre-screen to make sure there’s alignment before submitting a proposal. Another idea that was floated was to provide “simpler” grant applications for providers that receive ACCME Accreditation with Commendation.
One pharmaceutical company representative said her organization is trying a cost-sharing approach. The idea is to incentivize providers to develop CME so effective that it is worth paying more for—whether the payer is a healthcare provider, a hospital, or possibly an insurer. The pharma company would loan the funds to the provider, which would return it when they recouped their investment from participants or other entities. Whatever the provider might make above and beyond the commercial supporter’s investment could be used to develop new activities. Working closely with the company’s compliance department to avoid any whiff of kickback, the pharma rep says the idea is to provide a new source of revenue while adding educational value. Of the 12 high-quality proposals her company has received under this new approach, they have approved just two as being actually able to recover the funds and/or fulfill educational goals.
Another out-of-the-box solution one person proposed was to use something like the Kickstarter funding platform, where people post projects they’d like to do and set the amount they’d need to accomplish it, and the general public can peruse which projects they’d like to support financially. Each project has a defined amount of time to raise the stated amount; if it doesn’t reach its goal, no money changes hands. “That’s the kind of thinking we need to explore,” said Hilary Schmidt, PhD, the Task Force’s chairwoman and vice president, Independent Grants and Learning, with Sanofi US.