What's Ahead For Meetings At Healthcare Companies?

What does healthcare reform have to do with strategic meetings management? Congress is making the connection clear! The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce asked for--and is now reviewing--information from over 50 of America's largest healthcare companies. They're looking at executive compensation and business practices, as well as details on conferences, retreats and other events held since 2007. The data they want to see is pretty detailed, too, according to a report by Mary Ann McNulty in the publication - a table listing all conferences, retreats or other events held outside company facilities from Jan. 1, 2007 to the present that were paid for, reimbursed or subsidized in whole or in part by the companies,- an explanation of the purpose of the events,
- documents sufficient to show the location, number of participants and all expenses incurred, including transportation, lodging, food, entertainment or gifts.In its quest to provide coverage for those who are without, it's understandable that Congress wants to review just how these healthcare giants are spending premiums. But as I read about this, my first thought was, uh-oh, I hope this doesn't lead to the kind of witch hunt (OK that's a bit strong, I know; let's call it misguided criticism), of meetings in the healthcare industry--just as we have seen directed at TARP-recipient companies. Rather, we should be focusing on managing meetings strategically to make it possible to keep doing business, but in a fiscally responsible manner. And the way to do that is to implement strong spending policies, centralized and automated sourcing, reporting and other best practices (see June 16, 2009 post).  Smartly, Treasury has recognized this, too, and, influenced tremendously by lobbying from our industry associations, has issued its own rules on compensation and event spend for TARP firms (See Aug. 13, 2009 post). Speaking of our hard-working associations, I applaud the U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association for being right on top of this development and letting its voice (and ours) be known. They sent a letter to the committee, expressing that "legitimate business travel throughout the country may suffer another blow due to misinformed demonization." Stay tuned for more thoughts in my next post about the government inquiry into healthcare-meetings, and the good that will come out of it (I'm sure).  

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