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‘The Balance of Revenue Has Shifted’


The bad news for continuing medical education is that financial support from drug and device makers is down for the third consecutive year,and it’s not likely to recover any time soon — or ever. “The bottom line is, budgets have decreased, and they’re not going to increase,” said Maureen Doyle-Scharff, sen- ior director of Pfizer’s Medical Education Group. “I don’t see that happening.” The good news is it might not matter.Total CME revenue is up,


according to theAccreditation Council for ContinuingMedical Edu- cation (ACCME),and it seems medical meeting organizers are find- ing other ways to foot the bill for CME.AsACCMEstated in its 2010 annual report: “The balance of revenue has shifted.” In 2010, total income for organizations that offer CME pro-


gramming increased 3 percent over 2009, while “other income” —which encompasses any income that’s not commercial sup- port or advertising/exhibit money—grew nearly 10 percent.Other income now accounts for more than half of total income for CME providers.


Governmental grants and grants from nonprofits fall under the


“other income”umbrella.Anumber of meeting planners say they’re more aggressively going after such funds.“We’ve started to look at government grants more than ever,” saidWanda Johnson,CMP,


founder of Rockpointe Corporation,a medical education company based in Columbia, Md. “I know of one annual meeting that has seen its professional attendees drop from 18,000 to 12,000.” Although he can’t attribute the drop directly to rising registration fees, he believes it’s a contributing factor. Indeed, research suggests that at least for now, physicians are


unwilling to pay more for CME. According to a 2011 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine,a majority of physician respondents said commercial support of CME programs introduces bias—but only 42 percent were willing to pay increased registration fees to decrease or eliminate commercial support. While some planners struggle with the question of raising fees,


others point out that plenty of industry money is still available; it’s just not being distributed via education grants. Instead, a num- ber of planners say that they’re seeing renewed interest in tradi- tional advertising and sponsorship opportunities—space that is not subject to thesamestandards and requirements asCMEgrants because it’s purely promotional,and not educational.While adver- tising and exhibit income remained almost unchanged between 2009 and 2010, it grew 64 percent over the past decade, accord- ing to ACCME. AtThe Endocrine Society,Johnson said she’s had success secur-


“My outlook is, groups like ours will have increasing pressure to raise registration rates to make up some of the difference of shrinking pharma money.”


ing industry sponsors for communication centers, which are des- ignated spaces in the exhibit hall where attendees can check email or charge phones or laptops.She’s also seeing more interest in ban- ners and stand-alone advertising kiosks.She said:“It’s easier to get approval for sponsorship money than for grants.” Cathy Scheck,vice president of education and meetings for the


Heart Rhythm Society,agrees.“We’re seeing more promotional dol- lars going to non-CME product talks on our exhibit floor,” she said. “It’s not accredited CME, and it’s clearly noted that it’s not CME, but they have been very well attended.” To ensure these well- funded but non-accredited learning events don’t pull attendees away from accredited CME, Scheck says she tries to limit them to evening hours. At IDSA, Harwood is seeing more advertising at CME events


CAE, senior director of meetings and education for The Endocrine Society.“We hired a grant writer whose focus is foundation and government grants.” Another component of “other income” is registration fees—


which many meeting organizers either already have raised or are looking into raising. The Cardiovascular Research Foundation increased attendance fees for all events by about 10 percent this year.At the Infectious Diseases Society ofAmerica (IDSA),Vice Pres- ident of Meetings and Education Sandra Harwood,CMP, hasn’t yet raised fees, but expects to soon. She said:“My outlook is, groups like ours will have increasing pressure to raise registration rates to make up some of the difference of shrinking pharma money.” At the same time, organizers are hesitant to raise fees too


much. “After a while, you reach a curve where you’re too expen- sive and people stop coming,” said Tom Sullivan, president and


held in convention centers. But such blatant displays of industry dollars don’t always sit well with attendees or the leadership of the medical societies sponsoring an event,meaning you have to main- tain a delicate balance between generating revenue and main- taining your organization’s professional reputation.“The perception among our board has been that it’s somehow distasteful to have blatant advertising within the confines of the convention,”Harwood said.“But we’re looking at those sorts of things very closely now.” One way to soft-sell sponsorship is to create more palatable sponsorship opportunities.“We’re trying to divert industry dollars away from the traditional advertising, like billboards or airport ads, to awareness campaigns,” Scheck said. “Instead of Company XYZ buying a banner, we might approach them with a consumer- focused awareness-building campaign,something that fits our mis- sion and goals but needs their financial support.” 


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pcmaconvene April 2012


www.pcma.org


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