Transparency and accountability are nothing new for those who work in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical product industries. But some professionals now find themselves scrambling to satisfy the new Physician Payment Sunshine Act requirements related to meetings, conferences, and conventions.

Beginning August 1, the Sunshine Act requires manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, biologicals, and medical supplies covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Medicaid to report to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services all payments or transfers of value to physicians, teaching hospitals, and other healthcare providers. This includes expenses related to the meetings industry, including travel, lodging, and food and beverage.CMS will begin posting the information in a public database on its Web site in the fall of 2014.

Tracking individual expenses for each physician attending a conference could be a logistical and paperwork nightmare: Did Dr. Smith have a muffin with his breakfast? Which physician asked for an extra piece of cheesecake for dessert?

Physicians also are concerned about the accuracy of reporting—some may even opt out of events for fear that errors in reporting may harm their reputations once the data goes public.

Here are three ways to address Sunshine-related challenges:

1. Negotiate package deals that calculate costs ahead of time, so you don’t have to track and sort through individual expenses later on.

2. Look for venues that provide the greatest value. Physician attendees are less likely to fear criticism and opt out if the rates are reasonable.

3. Bundle pricing into the total cost of your event. This makes processing easier and gives attendees an idea up front of what will be reported to the CMS.

Here’s how these strategies play out in two key areas.

Food and Beverage

Packaged Pricing: Develop a per diem program for physician-attended meetings similar to what state and federal governments follow. Don’t scrimp or splurge, but create standard meal platforms that adhere to regulation. A good guideline would be:

·      $25 inclusive—breakfast

·      $50 inclusive—lunch

·      $100 inclusive—dinner and reception

You should be able to shift around pricing to meet your goals and objectives, as long as the total amount for food and beverage does not exceed $175 per day.

Flexibility: It’s important that meeting venues be flexible in both offerings and pricing, as long as the total amount is less than or equal to the pre-established menu pricing.

Billing: Packaged pricing also makes billing easier. A flat rate for breakfast—included as a line item in the costs of the conference—will apply equally to all attendees regardless of how much they eat.

Lodging

Standard Room Only: Pharma planners need to be sensitive about paying for Internet and room rental fees. Look into bundling items with the cost of a room. Make certain physicians stay in standard rooms, not suites.

Breadth of Opportunities: Consider working with a convention and visitors bureau to identify multiple lodging venues able to offer the number of standard rooms you need. The CVB can help negotiate pricing and room bookings to ensure that all attendees receive the same type room for the same cost. This option may not be available at a traditional stand-alone hotel.

Above all, don’t be shy about asking what meeting venues and CVBs can do for you. That’s their job. Make sure they do it right. 

Michael Krouse, CHME, CMP, CASE, is president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau in Southern California. He can be reached at mkrouse@ontariocvb.org.