With the torrential downpour and tornado warnings significantly slowing what would already be a best case traffic-free 5-hour return trip from Philly down the Eastern Shore to Virginia, I had a good amount of (additional) time to reflect on my 2-day experience at the CBI Speaker Programs 2016 Conference. While AHM participates in numerous industry events throughout the year, including hosting our own AHM Annual Industry Conference in May, this was my first opportunity to attend and speak at a specific conference dedicated to speaker programs. For the past few years, I have had the privilege of speaking at the CBI Transparency & Aggregate Spend Conference in August, but I can say my experience at the Speaker Programs conference was uniquely different from the perspective of also being an attendee. While the August compliance conference typically hosts 300+, the Speaker Programs hosted roughly 60 individuals – although still upwards of 30 Life Science industry companies were represented. With a smaller conference size, it was possible to attend many more presentations and gain an even deeper understanding of the problems and approaches to those problems that our industry is facing, and as I will mention later on, most of us had a great time doing it.
On one topic specifically – how to Ensure Best Practices through Globalization of Speaker Program Standards – we were able to highlight the challenge of how the global uptake of compliance and transparency regulations has made managing and executing speaker programs more complex but yet how global-minded technology solutions can provide an opportunity to produce desirable (and compliant) business outcomes for all Healthcare Professional (HCP) and Healthcare Organization (HCO) interactions. Here are some key takeaways from that session and also the conference as a whole.
- Compliance is Global Challenge– Starting in the early 2000s here in the United States with state reporting requirements, the global trend towards compliance and transparency has progressed in only one direction: UP! The US Sunshine Act came to life a few years ago followed in Europe by the formulation of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associates (EFPIA) regulatory code. Nicknamed the “European Sunshine,” member countries in EFPIA have to report on transfers of values to HCPs/HCOs in much the same way the US manufacturers do. The Asia-Pacific region followed suit as well, with several countries including Japan, Korea, and Australia instituting comprehensive compliance and disclosure regulations. Managing speaker programs, or any HCP interaction for that matter, has become increasingly difficult in this environment and must be executed with a heightened level of awareness of both local and regional rules.
- A Global Challenge Requires a Globalized Technology Solution that can be configured to meet local country and regional compliance and business process requirements. Spend caps, meal caps, eligibility, business rules, approvals, attendance recruitment, you name it and could differ from one region to the next, or from one country to the next. Although most HCP interactions have some basic level of consistency at their core, being able to pull a lever or turn a knob ever so slightly (or not so slightly) to adjust for differences in initiating, planning, or executing those interactions and being able to do it quickly is a big win for any business and compliance operation. France has a 60 Euro limit per meal. Estonia allows 80 Euros per meal, but yet the Czech Republic has three separate limits for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? That’s no problem as long as you can configure your meal caps in such a way as to address those differences. How about collecting attendance information for a speaker program? Simple, right? Well, it depends, are they a US HCP or an international HCP? Are they even considered an HCP based on local definitions? Do you have a mobile application that can react to those differences and also provide electronic sign-in capabilities, reducing or eliminating the need to collect critical information via paper? The point is we want our technology to take as much of the burden of compliance off of the user of that technology. Both in the US and abroad, the focus should be on science and enhancing the value of relationships with HCPs, not a struggle for a sales representative, marketing director, speaker program manager, medical science liaison, or other stakeholder to remember every single business and compliance rule that the globe now has to offer.
- Conducting Effective and Compliant HCP Interactions involves a partnership between business and technology, between life science companies and their suppliers, and, then, ultimately with the HCP. Given that all of these roles were represented at the conference, it was clear that there was recognition by all sides that everyone plays a role in achieving the desired outcomes. I was part of numerous conversations between two or more pharmaceutical company attendees discussing the level of accountability their marketing and speaker bureau operations teams should have in the training and effectiveness of specific speakers yet simultaneously agreeing that there is also accountability on the part of the HCP to meet the expectations of the business and compliance teams. And vendors, where do they come in? Whether they are providing services, technology, or both, there was overwhelming agreement that vendors should behave and be treated as partners, to have a vested interest in the relationship, and to be an extension of the business. All involved should ensure valued and compliant relationships with HCPs.
With all that said, I do come back to perhaps one of the most memorable moments from the conference that occurred towards the end of the first day. It had to do with the development of a speaker program while under a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) when it was proclaimed that all CIAs will undoubtedly have one thing in common – Speaker Bureau will have contributed to the terms of the agreement. While serious in its message, it also generated laughter from the audience as a majority, if not all, of the conference attendees understood the underlying implication of the statement. This atmosphere permeated the entire conference, making it a very enjoyable experience. The tactical injection of humor into discussions on serious topics fostered and encouraged questions, interactions, collaboration, and engagement and helped to turn day 1 strangers into day 2 colleagues.
And lastly, kudos to Curry Wilson and Amy Heacox at CBI for their management and execution of the conference, including their senses of humor whilst observing a few select vendors struggling mightily with booth setup.
Frank Castora, Director, Global Solutions Management, AHM
Frank joined AHM in 2007 and has been delivering compliance solutions to the Life Science industry for nearly 10 years. He has delivered solutions for compliance-based Interactions Management and provided expertise on data integration and exchange needs for Aggregate Spend and Disclosure Reporting. Frank is currently responsible for the strategy and product management of AHM’s Compliance Solutions platform, CentrisDirectTM, and related integration services portfolio.