Frustration with the more nebulous requirements of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals was one of the major discussion points during a session, called Medical Meetings Diagnosed, at the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual meeting in Toronto last week (January 7 to 10).

About 40 people —- primarily medical meeting planners, hoteliers, and convention and visitors bureau officials -- exchanged ideas and concerns, without a moderator, about hot topics in the medical meetings trade. This free-form dialogue was called a Shared Interest Group, one of several at the PCMA meeting.

Several meeting planners commented on the uncertainty in the process of applying for pharmaceutical company grants for continuing medical education meetings. “[Pharma companies] don’t tell you why they turn you down,” said one planner. Some suspect that rejections may have to do with the venue. The PhRMA code states that the venue must be an appropriate setting for educational meetings, yet it stops short of defining what “appropriate” is, leaving meeting planners to interpret the guidelines for themselves.

When applying for industry funding, many planners said they avoid including properties that have the words “resort and spa” in their names for fear that the proposal will be rejected because the site is deemed inappropriate. But others said that they have received grants for meetings at resorts and spas. Hoteliers are aware of this, particularly those that court medical meetings. Some hoteliers and CVB officials in the session said hotels are completely rebranding, taking “resort” out of their name, or branding the hotel differently for medical meetings. One attendee joked that hoteliers need two different business cards -- one for medical meeting planners, and one for other kinds of planners.

Also at the PCMA meeting, the association introduced an exclusive offer to members: use of a new tool called MeetingMetrics, designed to measure the return on event (sometimes called return on education -- that is, whether the meeting met its strategic objectives. Developed by GuideStar Research, New York, MeetingMetrics is an online tool to facilitate pre- and post-event surveys. It even has an application to survey attendees several months after the meeting to capture behavioral changes or knowledge gained, which the developers say will be a critical tool to comply with new CME guidelines. Under the Accreditation Council for CME's new accreditation criteria, CME providers are expected to measure changes in physicians’ competence and performance that are the result of educational activities. The tool is available exclusively to PCMA members starting February 1. It will be available to the general public eight months later.