Sun Shines On Meetings In Healthcare Act

Earlier this year, I wrote about how the so-called "Sunshine Act" legislation that was pending in Congress would set new standards on reporting of gifts, payments and travel to doctors by pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. I urged that pharmaceutical companies get their meetings management programs in order to prepare for the stringent reporting that would be required if the bill passed.
Unless you've been living on Mars, you must know that Congress has just passed a national healthcare reform bill, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that mandates coverage for every U.S. citizen. But did you know that the law also has incorporated the Physician Payment Sunshine Provisions?

As of January 1, 2012, companies must begin tracking the names of physicians they provide payments to, along with addresses, specialties, national provider identifiers, name of the drug or device involved, and whether the payment was cash or in-kind services. Companies must start reporting this information to the government on March 31, 2013. Pharma and medical device companies in states that legislate stronger reporting would be exempt.

A recent article predicts that the law and its rules will bring changes to both pharma meetings and continuing medical education. For example, because the act aims to make reimbursement for Medicaid patients equal to the level of reimbursements for Medicare patient care, there will be greater demand for physician's assistants to provide care -- and thus greater demand for more education. Reform should spur more comparative effectiveness trials of drugs, too.

Preparing for the new reporting rules in the healthcare act, however, should be the main concern of meeting managers at pharma companies and medical device makers. My advice:

- Work with your purchasing and compliance officers and others to nail down the specifics of what the Sunshine Provisions will require from you;
- Investigate technology that will easily and efficiently capture the meeting spend data you need and integrate with your own health care provider (HCP) reporting solution that you may be using;
- If you're considering adopting HCP meetings reporting technology, make sure the solution can also be configured to specific policies that your compliance organization sets around how regulations are interpreted and followed. (The rules may be different if your company is based in a state that has tougher regulations.)

We're in a new era of visibility now, and the new healthcare program will add even more clarity (and responsibility) to reporting. Are you ready?

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management