As the millions of dollars, pounds and euros are accounted for, packaged up and reported on, the big questions that remain are what impact will the EFPIA Disclosure Code have on the healthcare meetings industry and will the public disclosure of fiscal interactions between healthcare professionals (HCPs) and healthcare companies have a significant impact on medical meetings?
What EFPIA and its thirty-something members have been striving to achieve is a move towards greater transparency, seeking to develop a system and process that would satisfy doctors and the general public. In doing so, the EFPIA standpoint has been to emphasize the positive aspects of cooperation between HCPs and the healthcare industry, and the benefits it brings to scientific advancement and patient-centricity.
Only time will tell how successful this journey will bee and whether transparency can be achieved. But how will successful transparency be measured? I suggest there are three areas for consideration and evaluation.
The first is data accuracy and integrity. It’s well documented that in the first round of US submissions, 39% of records were rejected by the government – a staggeringly high proportion. It’s a slightly different scenario in Europe; perhaps the lack of uniformity in reporting requirements across the region means less attention drawn to inaccuracies. One thing we can be sure of is that each mistake will be investigated, corrected and resubmitted – which will draw attention to the intentions and integrity.
The second mark of success will be the understanding of HCP to healthcare interactions. Will the public gain greater clarity, tolerance and insight as to the role of such interactions? The ABPI stated that in 2016 it will be launching a searchable database of all transfers of value and payments made by the industry to individual HCPs in 2015, joining a host of other countries, associations and governing bodies who already have platforms in place at local levels. The fact that there is no common platform to declare all industry spend at the point of disclosure, or encompass all EFPIA member companies and countries, is creating a barrier to transparency.
There is certainly the prospect for a media frenzy once the sums of money are in the public domain. At this point, we will see whether the EFPIA spin has accomplished its goal and whether the balance between gathering information and making sure it is meaningful has been met.
The third slice of the evaluation pie is the impact disclosures have on HCP behaviours and their dealings with the industry. Depending on which survey you read, over 75% of HCPs believe transparency is a good thing and will be embracing the change (Source: ABPI), yet 70% of a different survey pool suggest disclosure will affect their decision to attend a meeting involving a healthcare company (Source: Healthcare Meetings Forum). A recent survey conducted by Ashfield Meetings & Events sits somewhere in the middle, with 53% stating that industry codes of practice are increasingly restricting their ability to attend meetings.
Until we can provide tangible statistics to back up the survey findings, we can focus on countries who have had disclosure policies in place for several years. Our evidence and conversations suggest that in countries such as France, Netherlands and Denmark, meeting attendance has not been directly affected. Even in the US, delegate numbers haven’t significantly been impacted upon.
So are these changes just being blown out of proportion? It is worth noting that these surveys all suggest that face-to-face interaction, peer-to-peer discussion and debate at meetings is a preferred vehicle for gathering medical education and information; it’s the reason HCPs attend such meetings.
The industry must not only adhere to regulatory guidelines but also to how HCPs make choices. If the learning opportunities at these meetings are not optimal and HCPs are left feeling slightly twitchy about disclosure, those interactions will be lost.
What these numbers tell us is that healthcare companies will have to evaluate how they interact with HCPs and challenge the content, format and structure of meetings.
It will be fascinating to have the opportunity to evaluate the impact of the new transparency guidelines in 12 months when this blog might be taking a very different position.
Andrew Moore is Client Partnership Director at Ashfield Meetings & Events