2009 Med Ed Review

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As part of our annual Medical Education Review, we posed five questions to independent CME providers and promotional med ed firms about some of the pain points they are facing. A selection of results and responses are aggregated below. Note: This is not intended to be a scientific survey.

What has been the biggest industry challenge over the past year?
The economy is taking its toll, with 24 firms citing dwindling budgets as their biggest challenge over the past year. A further 16 cited regulatory scrutiny. Other challenges included a lack of new drugs/slow FDA approval times, client consolidation, the grant application process and the difficulty of co-ordinating multifunded programs.

One provider cited “maneuvering through uncharted territory in regards to proposals and needs assessments, varying submission processes and limited communication channels with commercial supporters.”  Another was concerned about “overcoming the negative noise about industry-funded CME.”

What types of programs are growing the fastest and why?
There is little doubt that interactive, non-personal programs are growing the fastest, according to both CME providers (12 responses) and promotional med ed firms (15 responses). Reasons given for this trend included the reach and frequency of interactive programs, their ability to capture data, cost-efficient ROI and their popularity due to reduced travel budgets.

However, six organizations disagreed, stating instead they are seeing the most growth in live meetings and symposia. Respondents also mentioned the importance of programs with a PI component.

Have you seen levels of commercial support rise or fall in the past year?
Of the 21 independent CME providers that responded to this question, 16 (76%) reported a fall in commercial support, with six of these companies citing “significant” drops of between  20% and 50%. Just four said funding levels remained about the same, while only one organization reported an increase.

Most blamed the cuts on the economy in general, although one pointed a finger at “risk mitigation by pharma companies.”

Another respondent spoke of the “emphasis on some specialties to the exclusion of
others, especially primary care.”

“Everyone is tied into paralysis by analysis,” concluded one provider.

Similarly, eight out of 11 promotional med ed firms said their budgets had declined. “Clients are working aggressively to reduce costs,” noted one promotional firm.

Are grant approvals moving faster or taking longer? By how much, typically?
Twelve of 17 independent CME providers reported that grant approvals were taking longer than in the previous year—“significantly” longer in most cases. Many reported that the process was being drawn out by several weeks and even by months in some cases.

“The challenge is multi-supported activities, which take longer to fund because multiple organizations are involved,” explained one provider.

How has regulatory scrutiny impacted commercial support?
Most respondents agreed that regulatory scrutiny and compliance is having an effect. “It's enough to require additional staff and resources to meet client and government regulations,” said one company.

However, some of the independent CME providers see it as a positive. “Though it has made our jobs much more difficult, it has necessitated innovation among those dedicated to advancing CME,” said one.

“It has helped our business,” added another, “because we are part of the conflict resolution process—we provide services for independent review of CE content.”

Others remain unconvinced. One provider spoke of grappling with “the perception that we cannot offer quality, patient-centric CME because we are a for-profit organization.”

Another skeptical provider observed that “increased regulatory scrutiny has encouraged  some commercial supporters to prefer working with perceived ‘safe harbors,' like academia and professional societies, to award grant funding. [But] whether this truly provides a safe harbor and improves process and outcomes is yet to be determined.

“On the other hand, this ‘preferred' process can be inefficient at the expense of both providers and commercial supporters.”
  • On the following pages is a directory of 40 independent CME providers (beginning opposite) and 55 promotional med ed firms (starting p. 47). All information was supplied as part of the 2009 Med Ed Survey.
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