For nearly three years, the workgroup conducted polls, interviews, focus groups, and stakeholder meetings to determine both the impact of satellite symposia on medical meetings, and the impact of medical meetings on satellite symposia. The group quickly realized that the ACC was not alone, but it was also apparent that stakeholder data held some unanticipated insights.

Early in the assessment phase, the group surveyed commercial supporters, medical communication companies, hospital and healthcare providers, medical specialty societies, and other types of healthcare-related organizations on their barriers to supporting or administering satellite symposia. Commercial supporters were the only group that listed providing “educational value when compared to annual meeting scientific sessions” as a primary barrier to supporting symposia. MSS groups were more concerned with costs. Honestly, we expected the results to show the opposite.

Additionally, while many expressed concerns about conducting satellite symposia, the symposia themselves were alive and kicking. Fifty-seven percent of providers were offering satellite symposia, and one-quarter of supporters estimated that up to half of their entire medical education budget would be spent supporting satellite symposia. Money was flowing in—and societies were counting on it. When surveyed about the financial impact of symposia to their overall program, most organizations identified the revenue stream as modestly important, and 13 percent stated that revenue generated through symposia was “absolutely crucial for the success of our annual meeting.”

Most organizations cannot afford to follow in ACC’s footsteps and remove symposia from their meetings. So the question of how to administer them remains.