CME Providers Talk a lot about collaborating effectively with commercial supporters. But how often do you hear about the “other” partner, the medical meeting planner? Of course, content quality and an unbiased presentation go a long way toward improving physician behavior and, ultimately one hopes, patient outcomes. But who has to make sure the patients attending a conference on Prader-Willi Syndrome, which causes insatiable hunger, won't find food they shouldn't? What if the frozen body parts aren't thawed in time for the wet lab training session? Who deals with keeping 300 pigs' feet stored properly for a surgical workshop?

That would be the meeting planner whipping out the blow-dryer to warm up the parts, working with the hotel to store the pigs' feet in their industrial refrigerators, and dealing with hotel operations to get those minibars out of Prader-Willi patients' guest rooms.

And who has to ensure that the site selected is attractive enough to keep participants happy, but not so lavish as to trigger scrutiny from the Office of Inspector General? Who's the one scrambling to help exhibitors stay in line with Food & Drug Administration regs? Who's soothing docs who are disgruntled to find their spouses can't come to a dinner meeting gratis? Again, I'd say that would most likely be the medical meeting planner.

Medical meeting planners have a largely unheralded, yet vital, role in affecting the outcome of a live event — and it's not a job just any meeting planner can handle. It takes a specialized knowledge of the rules, regulations, and the particular, often peculiar, needs of the medical meeting market. Which is why I believe that, in addition to site selection and contract negotiation skills, medical meeting planners should also have at least a passing knowledge of CME and pharma regulations and requirements. The more they know about CME, pharma, and governmental rules, the better they can do their part of the job, which helps CME providers do their part of the job, which in turn helps participants do their part of the job — learn, and apply what they learn in practice. But no one's going to learn anything if those pigs' feet go bad, the site isn't conducive to learning, or participants pitch a fit over a lack of shrimp on the buffet. Planners who know the rules can help.

To have a successful educational outcome, both the logistics and the content sides have to share the same goals, understand the limitations, comply with the regulations, and work together to provide both the most learning-conducive physical setting and all that great content. The two go together, and, like any good partnership, the more each side knows about what makes the other one tick, the better the outcome for everyone.
Sue Pelletier,
(978) 448-0377