Applying technology to the challenges drug firms face when organizing visiting faculty programs, McGettigan Partners (www.mcgettigan.com) has launched the Physician Services Program. It allows corporate execs to manage the logistics of dinner meetings, grand rounds, honorarium and expense reimbursement, and speaker acquisition and communications. Using a centralized, Web-based system, the Philadelphia-based meeting and incentive management company hopes to help pharmaceutical companies achieve consistency and cost savings — as well as compliance with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, issued in July.

“In the current scenario, pharmaceutical companies engage multiple different service providers to do their medical education content. Within the sea of vendors, the logistics of arranging meetings — dinner meetings, grand rounds, grant requests — are distributed among many different parties as well as sales reps…. A very inefficient process,” says Danamichele Brennen, senior vice president of marketing and chief technology officer at McGettigan.

McGettigan's proprietary PSP software ties together a small meetings management system, an honorarium processing module (a McGettigan product since 1998), and a speaker database. Sales reps and/or corporate executives can use the Web-based application to, among other things, create invitations, track attendance, manage check requests, maintain speaker agreements and information, produce year-end financial reconciliation, and importantly, track meeting costs.

The system allows management to set caps on meeting spending, communicating to sales reps such things as the definition of a modest price per dinner, the compensation limits for physician speakers, and per diems on expenses.

“When integrating PSP for a pharma client, we spend significant time working with them to set clear rules and responsibilities around their compliance and noncompliance policies,” Brennen says, noting however that McGettigan does not take responsibility for a client's noncompliance.

The Physician Services Program also includes a partner service called EZ-Event, an online restaurant search engine and reverse auction site. EZ-Event, which launched last spring at www.ez-event.com, allows users to select meeting venues from a database of 5,000 restaurants nationwide, send banquet event orders to a selection of restaurants in a particular city, and get bids back from the restaurants within 48 hours. McGettigan has negotiated exclusive use of the system in the pharmaceutical industry through early 2003, and will be able to continue the exclusive arrangement if volume agreements are met.

McGettigan announced its alliance with EZ-Event in September and launched the Physician Services Program days later at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Congress in Philadelphia. “People were very interested, but as in many situations where you're creating a new product class, there's a lot of education involved,” Brennen says.

No Innovation Inertia

The technology industry may be in the dumper, but invention continues:

VIA3 is a webconferencing system specifically for small, two- to five-person groups that need to collaborate on Word documents. While most e-meeting systems are focused on a PowerPoint presentation, a VIA3 e-meeting centers attendees on a Word document, layering on collaborative components, such as instant messaging, chat rooms, and white boards. This first product from Tempe, Ariz.-based Viack Corp.

(www.viack.com), released in July, includes a headset for Voice Over IP service and a computer-top camera to add attendees' real-time images if desired. High-level encryption is built into the system and the affordable price.

3M Digital Wall Displaya presentation tool combining the features of an LCD projector, digital white board, and multimedia system in one 60-inch, hang-on-the-wall electronic display. Connect your presentation source — laptop computer, DVD player, videoconferencing equipment — to the unit, press power, and it's ready. Users can make notes — electronically using a marker-shaped mouse tool or on the dry-erase board surface — and print the screen. Share annotations and documents and interact in real-time over the Internet with PC or Mac users — or other Digital Wall Displays.