Helping Healthcare Event Planners Get Their Arms Around the Sunshine Act

Although the data collection requirement of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which is part of the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010, has been delayed until after January 1, 2013, healthcare meeting planners are still looking for ways to comply. What some have viewed as another burden on meeting planners could actually be an opportunity to utlize existing, low-cost technology to do some heavy lifting.

One of the provisions of the Sunshine Act is that all payments or "transfers of value" worth more than $10 to physicians--travel, consulting fees, honoraria, compensation, meals, conference sessions--have to be reported by the event planning organization to the appropriate government agency. The requirement poses a challenge to conference producers to record the individual activities (session attendance, food and beverage consumption, for example) of attendees in a large-conference setting.

The Meetings Focus website characterized the challenge for planners in an April/May 2011 post. "Jody Brandes, senior meeting partner for Genentech, is seeing the effects of the stricter regulations both from the codes already in place and the upcoming Sunshine provisions. 'We have to be more diligent with people signing in and out of meetings and events. We have to know who is there and know how much food they ate,' she says. 'We need to report how much they are getting coming to a meeting as far as hotel and food and beverage costs,'" writes Marlene Goldman.

Fortunately, the same technology that many planners use to monitor CME requirements, Tap 'N Go kiosks, can also be used to record the value received by doctors at medical meetings. The kiosks read the attendee badges when the individuals tap the badge on the flat surface of the reader (which can now be an iPad tablet). The taps are then recorded and related to the registration data to report which individuals attended a session or meal.

Collecting data on the "payments" and "transfer of value" that doctors receive at meetings is only one benefit of the Tap 'N Go kiosks. Once the data is collected for reporting purposes, it can also be used to enhance the effectiveness of the meeting. Understanding the attendee journey has always been an important part of the meeting design. Now, with the Sunshine Act requirements, planners are a step closer to meeting the obligations of the law and collecting useful business intelligence for creating better, more productive conferences.

Another bonus of Tap 'N Go systems is that they are low-cost, accurate and easy to implement. They don't require an electrical connection and can function without the Internet. Thus, they can be placed almost anywhere within the meeting space to record the activities of attendees. While technology isn't the answer to all of the challenges that meeting planners face, this is one example were it meets a critical need.

What are you doing to address the data collection requirements of the Sunshine Act?