August 30, 2016

You may have noticed physician payments are in the US news yet again. Why, you may ask? More than likely this is due to the June 30, publication of the “Open Payments” data for...

Read More
Disclaimer

A Great Conference Was Had By All...
You may have noticed physician payments are in the US news yet again. Why, you may ask? More than likely this is due to the June 30, publication of the “Open Payments” data for 2015, as well as including 2013 and 2014 payment corrections. Since the beginning, medical and professional organizations including the AMA have come out in support of the transparency that publishing the data brings, however these organizations and physicians alike have also been highly critical of the accuracy of the data being published.
When you are conducting any physician-attended programs regardless if they are promotional or non-promotional in nature, it is important that you have an error-free way to capture accurate attendance information as it relates to Transfer of Value (TOV). TOV occurs for those who are paid to attend, elect to consume a meal, or are paid for their travel to/from these programs, so it is critical that this information be captured and reported correctly. Utilizing an electronic sign in process increases the success of capturing accurate information directly from the attendee, thus increasing the accuracy of your reporting. Using an electronic method that links to your reporting system eliminates the need for the company sales representative or meeting host to manually enter attendance data into your reporting system, thus minimizing errors from a manual process.
Should your current method of capturing attendance be done utilizing a paper sign-in sheet with wet signatures requiring the later manual entry of attendance and meal consumption data into an electronic system, consider the consequences. You could be putting your organization and attending HCPs at risk of having errors relating to the completeness and accuracy of reporting on both attendance and TOV.
AHM has recently conducted Attendee Data Reconciliation (ADR) audits across a few customers that currently utilize a paper sign in sheet. This is a process by which AHM compares the information populated on the paper sign-in sheet with what the sales representative entered into their system of record. The audit looked at the following data points:

  • Whether there was a paper sign-in sheet available
  • Compared the number of signatures obtained on the paper sign-in sheet with those marked in the system as attended
  • Confirmed reportable attendee’s information on the paper sign-in sheet aligns with the correct attendees information in the system and with the appropriately aligned Customer Master ID #
  • Certified that the total meal count captured in customers reporting system aligns with the number of ‘meals consumed’ denoted on the paper sign-in sheet

The results of the different audits varied, ranging from a 24% potential error rate to as high as a 95% potential error rate. The highest volume of discrepancies existed in the following areas:

  • Potential mismatch in attendee name with that signed in on the paper sign-in sheet and that of selected and noted as attended within the system of record. For example:
    • Christina Taylor vs. Chris Taylor
    • Dr. Shaffer vs Robert Shaffer
  • Misalignment of those with signatures on paper sign-in sheet and those as marked attended within the system of record. For example:
    • 3 HCP signatures captured on paper sign-in sheet, however 5 HCPs captured as attended within the system of record
  • Missing or inaccurate total ‘meals consumed’ count

Once the discrepancy was identified, AHM then communicated to the responsible sales representative for that program what discrepancies existed and what the appropriate actions/steps were to resolve the discrepancy. AHM then continued to follow up with the sales representative and verify the discrepancy was eventually resolved in the system of record. Unresolved discrepancies would then go to compliance for action.
Capturing attendance utilizing an electronic signature is an industry best practice, however should your organization continue to utilize paper sign-in sheets, it is vital that you implement an ADR process to minimize the risk of reporting errors. Whether you elect to audit 100% of the programs or a subset, audits are necessary to ensure the appropriate reporting for all your attendees. Sharing the audit results with your compliance team can then help drive ongoing quality assurance practices including retraining of the team managing the sign in process on-site or ongoing management of the overall percentage of paper sign-in sheets utilized that then need to be reviewed to ensure accuracy of the information captured.
Organizations can increase the accuracy of their data by transitioning to a reliable, virtually error-free electronic system of capture aligned with their data reporting system. If they are unable to transition to electronic capture, then it is critical to implement a reliable audit process to check the accuracy of both attendance and meal counts. The impacts of data errors can lead to misrepresentation of the actual spend. An error in just one to two attendees in the meal count can lead to the inaccurate reporting of TOV being reported for each attendee. Once these errors are made public it can harm a physician reputation and not only impact the professional relationship they have with their patients but also unfairly jeopardize their employment or the potential to qualify and receive research grants. All companies have an obligation to ensure the accuracy of the information provided to CMS for publication. In order to reduce the risk, organizations need to ensure accurate and timely reporting to CMS.

Contributed by:


Debbi Koopmann, Director, Account Management, AHM

Debbi has over 17 years of experience in providing services to the Life Sciences industry working across all client functional areas including Marketing, Sales, Operations, and IT. She has a proven customer service, operations and account management background and is able to apply best practices, strategy development and proactive issue resolution in support of implementation initiatives, including the deployment of AHM’s technology solution, CentrisDirectTM.

June 3, 2016

Finding the right approach to supporting “special” field forces can promote overall efficiency while providing metrics useful for management. For companies with specialty field forces there are a number of important nuances to supporting...

Read More
Disclaimer


Finding the right approach to supporting “special” field forces can promote overall efficiency while providing metrics useful for management.
For companies with specialty field forces there are a number of important nuances to supporting speaker bureau activities. There is often a tendency for “special” to translate into unique; meaning everything they want to do is different and potentially more expensive. But does this have to be the case?
Defining a specialty field force and how they fit into your organization is the first task. Most have or claim to have a unique customer base. While they could potentially share resources they may have a different management and reporting structure, and that further encourages their differentiation. And that’s where most organizations leave the subject.
However, what if those field forces weren’t so unique, just “different”? Such an approach would imply commonality as the first principal; special, unusual and more expensive could be dramatically reduced. At AHM we have found that customer organizations can succeed in this approach by clearly identifying the potential differences in the needs of the specialty field force and then identifying where there is overlap and where there are similarities.
Because we believe consistency of processes drives efficiency we have generally advocated for a standardized approach, informed by metrics, so that the specialty field force gets what it needs rather than simply what it wants.
For a pharma company, how they choose to support a specialty sales force can vary depending on company culture, organizational structure, and how costs for supporting administration activities are allocated.
At one company with which we worked, management took the approach of standardizing services across the entire sales force, regardless of area or specialty. In this particular case, one specialty sales force reported up through a business unit that was almost a company within a company. So, they were accustomed to doing things their own way. The field force was no exception and was not initially inclined to appreciate the effort of standardization.
We had to find a reasonable middle ground that would appeal to them as well as everyone else. We had to work hard on communication and on how support decisions are made, making sure stakeholders were aware that they really aren’t that different from each other across business units and the company as a whole. In particular, what we had to do was tailor common support, not necessarily money and services but communications and support.
Making it work
Internally, working with stakeholders, we measured how we were managing our services for the company as a whole and for this particular group.
The questions we asked include:

    • Are tasks properly aligned and consistent across the board?

 

    • Are some areas lacking?

 

    • If we are not meeting certain metrics for this group, why and how can we get back within range?

 

  • How can we reduce “noise” and increase satisfaction?

External perspectives are similar. There are multiple customers we had to please, speakers being one. So, we surveyed them to take a measure of how quickly and effectively they felt we communicated, and handled travel and logistics. Were we consistent across different types of speakers? We surveyed them and presented the results to management. Then, as a group, we looked at what we could improve.
We did similar things with field and field management.
We also measured the specialty sales force compared with others within the same company. We found they did have lower metrics but we came up with an improvement plan based on measurement of results. We made sure to follow up with dissatisfied customers and we got in front of all the groups with regularly scheduled status call to show them the improvement processes we implemented and to share the survey results to track our success over time.
Most crucially, we showed that it worked. A standardized approach is efficient and effective and can still accommodate the small variations needed by specialty groups. The critical factor was that it needed to be a collective initiative with customer buy-in; otherwise, it would not have worked.
If the pharmaceutical company received negative feedback, it would have been easy to just blame our group. They recognized that before pointing fingers, we could work to solve problems together. And, if you don’t have that partnership approach, it won’t work!

Contributed by:


Jason Bogdan, Vice President, Account Management, AHM

Jason has over 13 years account management experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He has extensive experience working with multiple channels within pharma including; marketing, sales operations, IT, compliance, procurement and finance. He has experience in strategizing, planning and managing all aspects of content development and program execution for both launch and commercialized pharmaceutical products. He also has vast technical experience in understanding client needs and working to develop and deliver software solutions addressing the needs of sales, compliance, finance and marketing professionals.

 

February 29, 2016

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...

Read More
Disclaimer

A Brave New World: Globalizing HCP Engagements
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.

 

  • image004Conducting 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.


Contributed by:


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.

January 13, 2016

Ever sit through a didactic (basically a one-way conversation usually served with a side of death by PowerPoint) presentation, in a dark meeting room… and within 5 minutes, your mind starts to wander? Next...

Read More
Disclaimer

Making Meetings More Engaging Resulting in Increased Content Retention & Brand Loyalty
Ever sit through a didactic (basically a one-way conversation usually served with a side of death by PowerPoint) presentation, in a dark meeting room… and within 5 minutes, your mind starts to wander? Next thing you know, phone or tablet comes out, and off you go into your own world. You suddenly emerge when you hear the clapping, presentation is over, and what did you get out of it aside from setting a new high score on Angry Birds?
It’s a New Year… time for a fresh look at how we can help guide content delivery at meetings to maximize learning, exchange information (otherwise, why even have meeting in the first place?) and make the event so memorable & engaging that it elevates your brand.
So as part of your New Year Resolution to host meaningful & engaging meetings, here are a few tips for your future programs:

    1. As in the lyrics of the Fall Out Boys from “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” — Light Em Up. That’s right — pretty simple, cost-effective concept with many benefits. Light brings energy into a room. So many options, from over the top “intelligent lighting” to gobo lights throughout that brand the room, to projected patterns unto the ceiling, to inexpensive LED uplighting that brings ambience and sets a clean & polished touch to your program (e.g. the notion of feasting with your eyes, in anticipation of tasting the actual food). The key is a partnership with a best in class audio visual company that is involved in the early stages of the planning to consult and make recommendations to the look & feel of the general session and breakouts. New concepts, equipment and ideas emerge everyday — important to have a partner that is on top of these trends, to bring the latest and greatest to the table.

 

    1. Cue in the Jeopardy!© music: integrate gamification into your meeting to lock in learning. Validate that content is being retained by your attendees. Simple way to measure is to incorporate an audience response system (ARS) to either poll or quiz your attendees. We can help design “game templates” that include the meeting theme & branding. This could also be done as a team building exercise, with the benefit of networking and forging relationships. Point being, it’s important to breaking the monotony of a passive meeting by switching it up. And don’t forget the trusty buzzer… there are so many inexpensive “adult learning” gadgets that can be integrated for effective results.

 

    1. Create hands-on workshops by presenting case scenarios to which newly learned information can be applied. Ensure that your General Session seating arrangement is conducive to breaking your audience up into smaller groups (rounds of 10 for example) with flipchart & markers. And always have a “report back” as a way for your participants to verbalize this newly learned information and repeat back in their own words (therefore increasing retention of information).

 

    1. If your meeting involves vendors to demonstrate training aspects through PowerPoint (instead of the hands-on approach), instead of putting them on stage and talk through a PowerPoint for an hour; try a vendor fair — where each vendor is provided a space with whatever needs they have to do demos in much smaller groups and drive conversation — resulting in much more engaged participation and personal experience. Competitive game elements can be injected to incentivize participants to visit all of the relevant vendors… and if training is mandatory, signature sheets can capture attendance by vendor.

 

  1. Integrating well-being & healthy aspects to your meeting to maximize the learning potential. For instance, select hotel chains have nutritionists as part of their core team to assist chefs in creating menus to energize the participants, utilizing “brain foods” and ingredients that will avoid the food induced coma — keeping your participants fully engaged. We recommend including fruit infused water dispensers, herbal teas and cold-pressed juices, as natural alternatives to caffeine. As for your breaks, how about carving out 10 minutes in the agenda for a yoga instructor to lead stretches, get the blood flowing and breaking up the monotony of sitting down — no special room or mats needed, just movements right in the General Session? Finally, in the era of “sitting is the new smoking”, how about integrating “standing stations” as the last few rows of your meeting room to incite alternatives that are more aligned to your doctors & nurses that are constantly on the go?

To maximize the above results, engage your meeting professional early (meetings should never be an after-thought) in order to have the time to identify enhancements throughout the agenda and recommendations to be injected into the program; finding the ideal hotel that will offer the “brain food” menus and ergonomic equipment (e.g. standing desks); in addition to making sure that the technical producer is involved from the start to align A/V equipment to expected outcomes. The above suggestions are budget friendly, so think big — and when you are able to achieve ROE (return on engagement), which directly aligns to the ROI (return on investment) of the program by having created a participatory experience, your attendees will feel inspired, engaged, and heard which will have a lasting positive impact with whatever next steps may be… whether it’s launching a new clinical study; training a sales force on a new product or any commercial engagement with HCPs. In the words of Benjamin Franklin: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

Contributed by:


Agnès Canonica, CMP, CMM, HMCC Global Director, Strategic Meeting Management, AHM

Born and raised in the south of France, Agnès has also lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Grand Case, St. Martin prior to moving to the United States in 1981. Working in the Life Sciences sector since 1999 on both clinical and commercial meetings, Agnès is responsible for the Strategic Meeting Management division at AHM – implementing, growing, and leading International teams and accounts across the globe for programs outside of Speaker Bureau.

 

December 11, 2015

‘Tis the season to be talking bargains… Black Friday… Cyber Monday… Who doesn’t enjoy getting premium items “on sale”? That’s the objective when we engage with our customers on their meeting needs and develop...

Read More
Disclaimer

Leadership Series Part 1c - Giving Credit Where It’s Due
‘Tis the season to be talking bargains… Black Friday… Cyber Monday… Who doesn’t enjoy getting premium items “on sale”? That’s the objective when we engage with our customers on their meeting needs and develop a timeline to maximize savings (& increase attendance as a bonus). The most critical component is “time”. When you have only a couple of weeks to deliver a meeting, it’s very difficult to find hotel availability in the desired cities, let alone to try to further negotiate the rates. And flights — that pesky moving target for which the fares change on a daily basis, and usually get higher and higher when issued less than 21 days prior to travel.
So I wanted to share some best practices as food for thought for the next time you have a meeting need. As previously mentioned, time is the driver for bargains. For meetings up to 250 attendees, ideally, you want to start looking at hotel availability 12 weeks prior to your program. This will allow for better negotiations and concessions. You may want to also stay flexible on the destination — have three cities to work with, especially if decision is budget driven — this strategy will allow flexibility to meet your goal. As a side note, Orlando, Dallas and Atlanta have proven to be extremely cost effective cities. Also, if you have a little flexibility in your dates, this would allow for hotels to come back with better availability with a much lower rate.
Flights are always most challenging due to fares being volatile based on supply and demand. Our experience has validated that for flights being issued more than 21 days prior to meeting date, we are able to secure the best rates on most routes, in addition to having more options (availability) for direct flights. We recommend that registration is launched 8 weeks prior to meeting to maximize these fares. We also recommend that once city / hotel / date has been confirmed, to send the attendees a “Save the Date” in order to maximize attendance.
As a last recommendation, for a 2-day meeting, we would recommend utilizing an airport property that is either within walking distance of the airport terminal (a few of our favorites are Hilton @ Boston Logan; Grand Hyatt @ DFW; Westin @ Detroit Metropolitan; Marriott @ Philadelphia; Hilton at London Heathrow) or some very “un-airport” like, artsy hotels like the Loews at Chicago O’Hare or the Hyatt Regency Paris Charles de Gaulle that offer complimentary airport shuttles. Quick in and out — minimum commute (e.g. traffic); but most importantly saving on airport transfers that average a couple of hundred dollars per attendee by chauffeured-sedan. With some strategically placed airport staff with meeting signage for the attendees to recognize, we are still able to deliver a personal “white-glove” experience while saving thousands of dollars.
So with a little flexibility, time, and a best in class meetings agency that leverages volume-spend with strategic vendors, your meeting could benefit from some great cost savings. This is all part of an effective Strategic Meeting Management program.

Contributed by:


Agnès Canonica, CMP, CMM, HMCC Global Director, Strategic Meeting Management, AHM

Born and raised in the south of France, Agnès has also lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Grand Case, St. Martin prior to moving to the United States in 1981. Working in the Life Sciences sector since 1999 on both clinical and commercial meetings, Agnès is responsible for the Strategic Meeting Management division at AHM – implementing, growing, and leading International teams and accounts across the globe for programs outside of Speaker Bureau.

November 4, 2015

Fall is here and it is time to plan for the upcoming year. An important component of Speaker Program goals is having the right number of speakers. Recruiting too few speakers could prevent you...

Read More
Disclaimer

How Many Speakers Do I Need?
Fall is here and it is time to plan for the upcoming year. An important component of Speaker Program goals is having the right number of speakers. Recruiting too few speakers could prevent you from reaching your program goals. On the other hand, training more speakers than you will utilize has other consequences—unnecessary training costs and the potential perception that there was no intent to use certain speakers. The mindset should always be to use every speaker who is trained.
I have always believed the best way to determine the right size for a Speakers Bureau is to start with the Total Reach Goal—how many HCP’s you want to reach. From there, determine the Projected Average Audience Size. This estimate can be based either on the average audience size for previous programs for the same product or, in a new product launch situation, on the size of audiences typically seen for similar brands or in the same therapeutic area. From there, you can calculate the Required Number of Programs by dividing the Total Reach Goal by the Projected Average Audience Size.
Over the last few decades I have analyzed and watched closely how many programs a speaker will do over the course of a year. Data from programs for more than 20 pharmaceutical companies has consistently shown that speakers participate in an average of 6-7 programs per year. In looking at the data for AHM’s current customers in 2015, it is projected that each speaker will participate in an average of 7 programs this year.
Of course, there are always circumstances — such as highly specialized products or specialties — where other factors need to be taken into consideration. One example would be transplant medicine.
The final step in determining the right size for a Speakers Bureau, therefore, is to divide the Required Number of Programs by 7 (the average number of programs in which each speaker is expected to participate).
Despite our best intentions, the reality is that, for one reason or another, some speakers will not do any programs. The proportion of such speakers tends to vary from 5% to 15%. The reason for this variance may have something to do with the position of the product in the market, or where it is in its lifecycle. So it is important to add 5%-15% to account for those who may never speak.
You are now ready to plan and budget accordingly for your Speaker Programs in the coming year!

Contributed by:


Claire Rizza, VP, Account Management, AHM

Claire joined AHM in 2006 as a Service Delivery, Senior Director. After launching one of AHM’s flagship accounts she was promoted to VP of Account Management where she has been responsible for multiple large accounts. Prior to AHM Claire spent ten years at a Medical Education Company, she also spent 15 years at Parke-Davis. In total Claire has over 30 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry and 25 years in speakers bureau.