The Atlanta-based Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association’s 2003 Annual Meeting, held June 7 to 10, was red-hot this year, and for good reason. A record 727 healthcare marketing professionals flocked to Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs, Calif., to hear more about the new code of ethics from the Aventura, Fla.–based Advanced Medical Technology Association. AdvaMed is to the medical device community what the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America—authors of the PhRMA Code, which covers pharmaceutical companies’ interactions with healthcare professionals and has caused a sea change in the way many medical meetings are planned—is to pharma. The AdvaMed Code, which covers member activities to educate and train healthcare professionals in the use of medical technology, as well as sales and promotion, gifts, consultancies, and reimbursement for new medical technologies, goes into effect September 1.

Elizabeth Carder-Thompson, partner, Reed Smith LLP, and Kristine Rapp, associate general counsel, Baxter Healthcare, explained the implications of the AdvaMed Code and discussed some of the differences between the AdvaMed Code and the PhRMA Code. "It was the last session on the last day, which is when things usually begin to wind down," says Jennifer Palcher, HCEA’s communications specialist. "But everyone stayed for that one."

"We were fortunate to have two of the people who authored the Code to come speak this year," says Eric Allen, HCEA’s executive director. "It was almost like having the founders of this country come to speak about the Constitution."

The buzz extended to the exhibition, which sold out again this year. One hundred and fourteen exhibitors, including general service contractors, exhibit builders and designers, destination management firms, CVBs, hotels, interactive technology companies, and freight carriers came to show their wares to the record crowd.

The 6 percent jump in attendance over last year "is a good sign for all the meeting industry," says Allen. While he grants that medical meetings are doing better than most, he believes HCEA’s attendance "shows that when you put a compelling program together, they’re going to come no matter what."

So last year HCEA had the PhRMA Code, this year the AdvaMed Code … what’ll be the big draw for next year’s meeting in Austin, Texas? "One of the things we’re keeping our eye on is the new state gifts to physicians laws," says Allen. "I don’t think the industry realizes yet what an impact this could have, especially on what exhibitors can do in a convention setting."