MEDICAL ERRORS PREVENTION--CME'S ROLE In a recently released report that garnered an enormous amount of media attention, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) stated that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die each year in hospitals as a result of medical mistakes. That means that medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S., responsible for more fatalities than AIDS, car accidents, or breast cancer.

Pointing out that the health care industry is more than a decade behind other high-risk industries, such as aviation, in ensuring public safety, the IOM issued a series of recommendations--one of which is of particular importance for CME providers.

Recommendation 7.2 calls for professional health care societies to take a leadership role in error reduction by developing curricula on patient safety, and "encouraging its adoption into training and certification requirements." Societies should also "disseminate information on patient safety to members through special sessions at annual conferences" and through other means such as Web sites.

While many of the solutions proposed are changes in systems--education providers should step forward and assume a key role in reducing errors, say CME leaders.

"This is a wake-up call for [CME] providers," says Bruce Bellande, PhD, executive director, Alliance for CME. "You need to be an integral part of your institution and demonstrate that you can add value to the organization."

Since institutions will take a system-wide approach to redress the problems, CME providers should collaborate with other units, such as risk management, pharmacy and therapeutics, and quality control committees, so that they can offer effective educational interventions, says Bellande.

Key to the error-reduction education process is a feedback loop, says Bellande, so that providers can document improvements. "CME providers need to be much more aware of ways they can demonstrate CME's bottom line value to organizations, in providing quality, reducing unnecessary costs, and raising patient satisfaction."

Such educational initiatives will definitely attract commercial support, says Bellande, and are eligible for AMA category 1 credit.

One CME leader who has already developed accredited training programs in error reduction is Robert Pyatt, Jr., MD, medical director, radiology department, Chambersburg Hospital, Chambersburg, Pa. The error rate in health care is simply unacceptable, Pyatt says. If 98,000 people a year died in airplane crashes, "the public and the FAA would shut down the industry." CME needs to build a culture, he says, where physicians acknowledge there is room to improve their performance. "The CME industry needs to be accountable to the public for doing a better job," Pyatt says. -- Tamar Hosansky

Find Out More * The Institute of Medicine's report, To Err Is Human: : Building a Safer Health System, is published by the National Academy Press. For the full text and more information, visit www.nap.edu.

* The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, www.ismp.org, offers error reduction resources.

Software Snapshots E-PLANNING GUIDE There are more than 180 meeting planning software products to choose from and the list grows daily. To keep us current, Corbin Ball, CMP, MM's technology columnist, has catalogued the options from A to Z in The Ultimate Meeting Professional's Software Guide.

The chapters reflect the various aspects of meeting planning, including budgeting, housing, registration, site selection, and surveys, to name a few. Ball says the guide is the first in a series, and he plans to update it annually.

The book is available through its publisher, Meeting Professionals International at www.mpiweb.org. The price for members is $22.50; $31.50 for non-members.

For more help navigating Web-based meeting planning services, see part one of Ball's two-part review of online site selection services on page 132 of this issue.

Global Ties CVBS LAUNCH ALLIANCE Five CVBs worldwide have formed an alliance, BestCities.net, to provide meeting planners with a guaranteed high standard of service. The CVBs in Boston; Copenhagen, Denmark; Edinburgh, Scotland; Vancouver, Canada; and Melbourne, Australia, are the founding members of what they say is the first such alliance for the meeting industry.

The alliance (www.bestcities.net) will focus on medical groups. When the CVBs exchanged meeting data, it became clear that medical meetings are a major market in all five cities, says Andrea Shamoian, vice president, group sales, Greater Boston CVB.

Boston Markets to Medical Meeting Beantown has taken other steps recently to increase its share of the lucrative international medical meetings market, says Shamoian. The CVB has issued a publication listing the city's upcoming medical conventions and is distributing it to incentive houses in Europe and Asia, with the idea that the houses will then contact their pharmaceutical company clients and encourage them to send doctors to the Boston meetings. (Outside the U.S., companies can pay for doctors to attend meetings.) "[Inter-national attendees] spend so much more than domestic attendees," says Shamoian. "We want the economic impact."

The CVB is also working with teaching hospitals to draw more international meetings to Boston. "We found out they would like more international patients," she says. "We said, 'If you help us bring meeting attendees to Boston, those doctors will probably refer patients to your hospitals.'" The CVB and the hospitals are developing a 10-year marketing plan.

Bright Start STARCITE JOINS THE AUCTION CROWD The newest of the dot-com companies to enter the meetings arena did so with great fanfare recently at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. StarCite plans to distinguish itself in the meetings e-commerce arena with a site that becomes an integral part of a meeting manager's daily operations, according to Chairman and CEO John Pino, who helped spin off StarCite from McGettigan Partners, the Philadelphia-based meeting management company. McGettigan's roster of clients includes medical firms such as Wyeth-Ayerst, Parke-Davis, and Eli Lilly and Company.

On the Web at www.starcite.com, StarCite offers functions that the other major meeting planning Web sites do, including a large, searchable supplier database, online RFPs, news, hot dates, and the ability to put a meeting up for bid by hotels. What's new about StarCite: * a private, customized site for each company, tailored to its specific needs, travel policies, and vendors.

* access to a management application which is the evolution of McGettigan's CORE Discovery software. It allows every planner in a company to consolidate meeting data. Companies can view budgets, access negotiated rates for all hotel meetings, and publish an event calendar.

* capability for hotels or meeting managers to "re-sell" canceled space to other StarCite users.

* consultations with an expert (40 of whom are on staff), including experts who could facilitate site selection.

The customized home page and management application are free to planners. Clients do pay to publish canceled meeting space or use consulting services.

Sold! . . . to the Best Bidder StarCite is the second site to host live, online auctions where planners can put meetings up for bid by hotels. (Event-Source jumped on the idea first; see MM, September/October 1999, page 12.) But StarCite's user-friendly graphical interface takes the process to a higher level.

During the live auction, participants see on their computers a graphically rich representation of the process, including the meeting details and current bids from each supplier. (The planner sees who each supplier is, but the hotels do not know which rates and offerings are being presented by which bidder.)

Rather than a chat-room setting, StarCite uses proprietary software that allows simultaneous interaction. For example, the planner can ask a question of the entire field ("Can you offer a complimentary reception?") or of a specific supplier ("How much pre-function space is near your Grand Ballroom?") and see the answer instantly.

During the auction, a red arrow moves around the screen, tracking the lowest bid; meanwhile, the planner can put another arrow next to the bidder that is "winning" in his or her evaluation at the time.

Planners pay a fee to StarCite, equal to 10 percent of the difference between the "winning" hotel's opening bid and its final bid, times the number of room nights. For example, if Winning Resort's opening bid is $150 and the planner ultimately agrees on a $130 rate for 200 rooms for three nights, StarCite's fee is 10 percent of $20, or $2, times 600 room nights, for a total of $1,200.

Hotels also pay for the auction. StarCite is paid $3.90 per room night by the winning hotel. So, Winning Resort would pay StarCite $3.90 times 600 room nights, or $2,340. ("Losing" hotels pay nothing for their participation in the auction.) Hotels that sign up for annual marketing packages with StarCite pay a reduced fee of $2.90 per room.

Musical Meetings BMI BROADENS AGREEMENT Broadcast Music Inc. announced it will expand its music license agreement with the meeting and trade show industries by including meeting management companies in the pact. The original agreement, hammered out in early 1997 between BMI and industry leaders, now allows association or show-management firms to arrange for music rights on behalf of their clients. The new provision, designed to expedite the process, will function as a rider to the current blanket license for the meeting industry.

"Anything that will simplify our jobs and create less paperwork is a good thing," says Jean O'Donnell, chairwoman, Professional Convention Management Association, and director of convention and meeting services with the Philadelphia-based American College of Physicians American Society of Internal Medicine.

The three-year-old music license agreement culminated negotiations between BMI and four meeting industry organizations--PCMA, the American Society of Association Executives, Meeting Professionals International, and the Religious Conference Management Association. The agreement simplified music licensing and based fees on a per attendee rate of five cents that includes only those present where live or recorded music is played.

BMI's latest expansion of the 1997 agreement does not address the controversial issue of vicarious liability--trade show organizers are still held liable if an exhibitor plays music without a license. That issue is a major sore spot for exposition managers because exhibitions often involve tens of thousands of people, and the cost of music licensing can skyrocket.

Legislation that would have protected show managers from vicarious liability failed to pass in Congress last year. According to ASAE, there are no plans to reintroduce the reform legislation.

CMEA Heartbeat Away One of the stand-out aspects of the new CardioVillage Web site, launched by the University of Virginia Health System, is that it was developed by physicians for physicians. Unveiled at the recent American Heart Association annual meeting in Atlanta, CardioVillage (www.cardiovillage.com) features heart sounds, echocardiogram clips, and catheterization images, as well as commentary by cardiovascular experts. A physician editorial board approves all content. The site gives health care professionals access to CME credits for five dollars per hour.

In its first 17 days, the site received 15,000 hits, according to Jann Balmer, PhD, director, Office of CME, University of Virginia. Usage skyrockets from 7 p.m. until midnight, and from four in the morning until 7 a.m., Balmer says.

"I think you put the kids to bed, put your feet up, and if something's nagging at you, instead of reading a journal you can get on the Internet," she says, adding, "I don't think traditional conferences will ever go away, but this provides a peer-reviewed alternative for just-in-time education."

Future plans for the site include a section geared to patients.

Heading Home PCMA PICKS CHICAGO The Professional Convention Management Association will move its headquarters to its former home of Chicago as the board of directors unanimously chose the locale for the move from its Birmingham headquarters, planned for this spring.

Chicago had the edge among the three other cities on the short list--Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.--with the enticement of 3,600 square feet of space in the new 880,000-square-foot South Building of McCormick Place."And the city's desire to make PCMA an integral part of the local business community is reflected in its offer of a seat on the chamber of commerce," adds PCMA Chairman Richard P. Grimes, CAE.

Meanwhile the search for a new president and CEO is on schedule. Ideally, the new president will be in place and ready to open the Chicago headquarters on March 1, "or at least within a month after that," Grimes says. The new president will replace Roy B. Evans Jr., CAE, who is retiring on June 30.

ASAE Courts China With China entering the World Trade Organization, the time may have arrived for the meetings industry to consider China as a destination. That's the frontier Michael S. Olson, CAE, president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives is beginning to explore.

When the executive board met in Hong Kong in November, ASAE took the opportunity to meet with high-level Chinese government officials in Beijing. The historic meeting apparently went well--Chinese officials accepted ASAE's invitation to attend the organization's 2000 Annual Meeting in Orlando in August, and recently 17 Chinese scientific and philanthropic association executives, traveling as part of a cultural exchange program, paid a visit to ASAE's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Membership organizations are in the early stages of development in China, according to Olson, and are closely regulated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Here in the U.S., he says, many organizations have members in China, and some have already arranged exchange visits with their Chinese colleagues.

As far as forging stronger ties, Olson says that medical organizations in both countries may lead the way. "Groups like the Federation of Medical Societies in Hong Kong, representing 104 different societies, will be instrumental in building alliances between mainland (China) medical groups and their U.S. counterparts," Olson says.

While in China, ASAE executive committee members took the opportunity to explore the country's meeting facilities, destination management capabilities, "and the increasing openness of local officials to 'foreign' groups holding meetings in their country," Olson says. ASAE's team was impressed with what they found, Olson notes, mainly a strong commitment by the Chinese government to improve its infrastructure of meeting facilities and services.

"There are at least four five-star hotels with meeting facilities in Beijing," Olson says, "but now the challenge is to locate and train qualified hospitality staff."

innovator Hospimedica Goes South of the Border Health care trends and economic conditions are ripe for the debut of Hospimedica Mexico 2000, an international trade show for medical products, equipment, and services, scheduled for October 4 through 6, 2000, at the Poliforum Exhibition Center in Leon, Mexico. The show will include a medical congress, according to Anne Meerboth-Maltz, spokeswoman for Messe Dusseldorf North America, the U.S. subsidiary of the German organizer of Medica, a leading international medical industry trade fair.

Details for the medical congress scheduled around Hospimedica Mexico 2000 are still in the planning stages, Meerboth-Maltz says, but the programs will be released soon. Some exhibit categories for the trade event include hospital equipment, pharmaceuticals, services and publications, and laboratory and clinical equipment.

A recovering Mexican economy is one factor that led Messe Dusseldorf to organize the first Medica show there, but critical changes in the delivery of health services was the driving force for the debut. Among the changes is a 1997 modification to the country's social security law which allows the Mexican Social Security Institute to outsource medical services. Messe Dusseldorf projects that change will cause a high demand for private medicine.

For more information on Hospimedica Mexico 2000, visit www.mdna.com.

Third-Party Trends THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ROGER W ith a laser-like intensity and zeal, Roger Helms, president and CEO of HelmsBriscoe, a mega-site-selection company, Scottsdale, Ariz., outlined his vision and goals for 2000 and beyond at the company's Annual Business Conference in early December: "To change the way the world's businesses and associations book group rooms. To create and communicate so much benefit and value to having HelmsBriscoe book an organization's group rooms that it will be the exception to find an organization that continues that function without us.

"Ten years from now, at our 18th Annual Business Conference, you will be telling me that your greatest challenge is managing client demand. Anyone outside the company will tell us that's crazy. But you and I know it's already happening," he said to the 700 people gathered at The Venetian, Las Vegas.

An ambitious statement from the head of a third-party site selection company, often referred to in the meetings industry as a "ten percenter." But the growth in third-party site selection, and particularly in his company, bears out his claims. Only eight years ago, Helms and his partner Bill Briscoe, both ex-hotel execs, booked $25,000 in hotel room nights in its first year of business, and seven people attended the first annual business conference (ABC). In 1999, HB associates, now 206 strong, booked $1 million a day in room nights at 4,300 hotels. And HB was the single largest producer of meetings for Las Vegas in 1999, booking 360 programs.

HelmsBriscoe's business model: hire former hotel salespeople and meeting planners to work for themselves under the HB umbrella. HB does the site selection at no charge to the planner, but collects a 10 percent commission from the hotel. Preferred partner hotels pay 50 percent at time of booking, and 50 percent at the time of the meeting, in addition to an annual marketing fee.

Major hotel chains have signed on. Fred Kleisner, president and CEO of Wyndham International, said Wyndham has so embraced HelmsBriscoe that, as his company automates hotel room booking in real time over the next couple of years, "we will give a direct line to all of our booking organizations, and HelmsBriscoe is where I would start."

He was joined on a panel by Eric Danziger, president and COO of Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Helms, and Adams Business Media President and CEO Mark Adams (publisher of this magazine). --Betsy Bair

CONFERENCES ARE BORING. Excuse me? Well, let's face it, when you're pitching to the media, your meeting can appear to be a non-story. But ex-journalist-turned-media advisor Al Rothstein says there are steps you can take to attract press coverage--if you want it, that is.

Case in point: Last July, the National Institutes of Health and other public health organizations convened a conference on DES in Bethesda, Md. DES Action USA, a nonprofit consumer organization whose members served on the conference planning committee, wanted to take the opportunity to educate the public about the drug's long-term consequences. (DES, or diethylstilbestrol, is a drug that was given to pregnant women from 1938 to 1971. It was thought to ensure a healthy pregnancy but unfortunately it posed serious health risks for women who took the drug as well as their children.)

"My job," says Rothstein," was to get as much exposure as possible among the right people." He succeeded--24 stations carried live newscasts, the story was covered by radio stations, the AP, the Washington Post, and other national publications. Two weeks after the conference, women's health magazines were still calling the group for stories.

To spur reporters' interest, you have to tell them exactly why they should cover your event. "Not, 'We're having this conference, come cover us.' You have to tell them what's new, what's going to affect their audience. They need to know the issues behind the conference, and the story behind the issue." It also helps to make the story personal, says Rothstein. He provided reporters with the names of "DES Daughters" who were willing to be interviewed.

For more information on Rothstein's services, and for more media relations tips, you can visit http://mediabrain.home.mindspring.com

Exposure Tips * Reporters, particularly TV reporters, need visuals. Prepare photos and visual exhibits for them to video.

* Designate effective spokespeople to handle press interviews and educate them about reporters' needs.

* Develop story angles for reporters who can't attend, and provide them with local contacts, if possible.

up next * By the time you read this, you will have already celebrated the Alliance for CME's Silver Anniversary (25th) Annual Conference. Or, maybe you didn't get to go to the bash in the Big Easy. Either way, we were there, and MM will feature news and highlights from the event in our March/April cover story. We'll also include a retrospective look at CME over the past quarter century. Do you have a favorite memory of an Alliance meeting? A turning point in your own career with CME? What CME historical markers are most important to you? What changes would you like to see in the CME world in the coming years? Contact Tamar Hosansky at (978) 466-6358, or send e-mail to thosansky@aip.com to contribute your perspective.

* If attendance is down at your meetings because members are getting more of their education on the Web and traveling less often to your programs, you're not alone. In our next issue, find out what strategies your fellow societies are employing to resuscitate live meetings.

Thirty slides in 15 minutes is grounds for flicker epilepsy, but it's not clear at all to me how that results in learning." --Harry Slotnick, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience, University of North Dakota. For more on how physicians learn,see page 59.