New Hampshire Republicans weren’t the only ones lamenting “ObamaCare” on the eve of the nation’s first primary. CEOs from three U.S. medical societies took aim at healthcare reform as a major challenge to their physician members during a session at the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual conference, Convening Leaders, being held in San Diego this week. While many external influences will change the ways physicians are paid, most panelists said their meetings had not yet been greatly affected.

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has had the biggest impact on physicians since the passage of Medicare in the 1960s,” said panelist David Parke, M.D., executive vice president and chief executive officer, American Academy of Ophthalmology, at the session, called A New Day for Medical Associations, which looked at common concerns among the three medical associations as they deal with government policy and global business changes. “The PPACA is meant to have an impact on the triad of healthcare policy: cost, access to care, and quality of care. You can’t move all three at the same time. Everything is working in the wrong direction.” He said that many of the guidelines that will inform the 1,200-page Act are still to be written.

Parke said that the physician community is “confused, frustrated, and angry, and it impacts how they deal with their professional societies.” What are physicians most concerned about? “Physician payment and how reform affects their disposable income.”

Panelist Karen Hackett, CEO, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, discussed the ways increased transparency has affected her society’s members. She said that her industry faced major challenges in 2007 that dealt with medical device manufacturers and inappropriate gift giving to physicians, but that industry’s voluntary guidelines have now been embraced. While her physician presenters must now offer full disclosure at sessions at her annual medical convention about their relationships with industry, “it is right, but it is challenging to keep up.” She said that while her staff’s relationships with industry used to be key to the sale of sponsorships and exhibits at her annual meeting, they are now less important and that many of their sales efforts have moved to “an online process.”

With the amount of money that pharma and med device companies have spent to comply with the Sunshine Act (the part of the PPACA that deals with industry’s payment to healthcare professionals), moderator James Youngblood, CEO, Heart Rhythm Society, said that there is less for exhibitors to spend at medical association meetings and that the way exhibitors entertain has become more modest. Educating members about these changes is paramount, he added.

Hackett said that for the first time this year her society asked its physician attendees if they would voluntarily supply their National Provider Identifier for their exhibitors, so that they could track their physician spend, and that about 30 percent agreed to do so.

Youngblood also spoke of globalization, noting that with an increase in international membership at most U.S. medical societies, the annual meeting site is critical for attendance. Added Parke: “Europeans love Chicago and Asians love San Francisco.”

While each of the panelists’ associations conducts webinars regularly, some with paid registrations, some not, all of them eschewed the use of hybrid meetings at their conventions. “Our live meetings are incredibly healthy, vibrant entities,” said Parke. “At this stage, virtual meetings are accompanied by virtual revenue.”