Healthcare Industry News and Ideas for Medical Conference Organizers Bowing to the realities of Internet access and 800-number call-in services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to allow pharmaceutical companies to speak directly to consumers about the therapeutic benefits of their products. In return, the advertising must describe the products in more detail, including the most serious contraindications. Studies already exist showing that physicians lack knowledge about new drugs; with this ruling, the chances of physicians being faced with patients who know more about a particular drug than they do has got to be increasing.

The question for conference organizers is, where are physicians going to learn about new drugs? From detailers? From the Internet? It is common these days for CME directors to disparage the lecturer who comes in for an hour to talk about the "drug du jour." But if CME is going to retain relevance at the day-to-day level, isn't it time to start taking more seriously educating physicians about pharmaceuticals?

Should President Clinton's proposal to mandate testing of pharmaceuticals for pediatric use become law, what impact will it have on CME providers? Joseph Zanga, MD, vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says his organization supports the measure.

Pediatricians, like any other physicians, don't like to guess at drug dosages. In the absence of such information, they have turned to discussions of off-label uses (uses unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration), which have been a staple of pediatric CME, and rightly so, since physicians have depended on their own and others' experience in adjusting dosages for children. If pharmaceutical companies start specifying drug doses for children, will these CME activities phase out?

Doom and gloom: Maybe it's time for a CME course on positive thinking. According to a survey of 382 physician subscribers to Scientific American Medicine, an internal medicine newsletter, generalists and specialists are equally satisfied with their jobs today, at about 75 percent. But looking ahead three years, 46 percent of specialists think their job satisfaction will decrease, compared with 32 percent of family practitioners. Increased satisfaction is anticipated by 23 percent of family practitioners and only 13 percent of the specialists. The study was reported in the July issue of American Demographics magazine.

Hospitals need to become more focused, like McDonald's, says Regina Herzlinger, PhD, Nancy R. McPherson Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. In her new book, she highlights the Texas Heart Center, where high-quality heart surgery is available at a cost that is just 62 percent of the national average. The center's secret? A focus on bypass surgery and bypass surgery only--and on always looking for ways to do it better and more economi-

cally. Herzlinger's book is Market Driven Health Care: Who Wins, Who Loses in the Transformation of American's Largest Service Industry, published by Addison-Wesley. Herzlinger is just the most vis-

ible of an oncoming wave of management consultants to the hospital field, according to The Economist, an international news magazine. Contact Herzlinger at (617) 495-6646 or rherzlinger@hbs.edu .

Why play host to an international conference at your medical center? To gain referrals from overseas physicians. The Cleveland Clinic and many East Coast hospitals actively market to the international community, says Jan Blomefield, director of special clinical programs at SLUCare, the health services arm of Saint Louis (MO) University. The strongest factor contributing to the success of these marketing programs? The connections made among local and international physicians. Hospitals gain the prestige of being known as an international center and they gain something else: International patients pay cash.