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HCEA’s annual meeting was all about learning

Opening reception

Opening reception under the stars at New York, New York.
©2011 Exposures, Ltd. –
www.exposuresltd.com

When Peggy Furman spoke for the first time as HCEA president, her message was about learning. She asked how and where do we learn? Who do we learn from? What do we do with the information we learn, and do we use it to affect change? 

Networking and exploring new products on the exhibit floor were a part of HCEA’s 2011 Annual Meeting, but attendees clearly understood that this year, learning was the critical component. The theme of the meeting, “No Limits to Learning,” was certainly apropos.


A major concern for attendees was the reporting of National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers that is part of federal healthcare reform (the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—PPACA). The NPI capture is scheduled to become law in March 2013, although the reporting must go back to January 2012. The reason for capturing the NPI numbers is to track items of value, as set forth by the formerly stand alone Sunshine Act, now incorporated in the PPACA . The definition of ‘items of value’ is rather broad but the Act includes everything from gifts, entertainment and food to consulting fees, education and research.

The government has yet to issue guidelines for NPI capture implementation, and since most associations do not collect this information, this initiative will require close collaboration between healthcare exhibitors and associations. The dramatic increase in attendance of association members at the Annual Meeting and the growth of that membership category is proof of the seriousness of the challenge. The attendance at the sessions that discussed NPI reporting was also an indication that the total membership of HCEA is gearing for change.

Operation Homefront

Show floor veterans at Operation Homefront.
©2011 Exposures, Ltd. – www.exposuresltd.com

Yet there is a perceived upside to all this for healthcare exhibitors, who believe that ultimately they will be able to collect more accurate data about their booth visitors than ever before. Inherent in this is the possibility of new technology offerings to make the most of this data, and that was obvious on the exhibit floor.

Many ‘firsts’ in 2011
For the first time in recent recorded history, HCEA held its Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, a city growing in its involvement in medical meetings. All sessions were held at the headquarters, The Wynn Las Vegas Hotel, which provided a comfortable environment and excellent meeting facilities.

And for the first time, HCEA’s Annual Meeting was audited. The audit, conducted by BPA Worldwide, confirmed and validated show attendance data for HCEA based on verified registration, demographics and geographic coverage. As is true with attendees for almost every meeting in this era of proving value, HCEA members need to demonstrate the value of meeting attendance. Perhaps for that reason among others, sessions that discussed professional audits were well attended.

Yet another first was education in the exhibit hall. Short sessions focused on NPI number reporting and also on career issues for younger professionals.

Opening

The exhibit hall opens to an eager crowd.
©2011 Exposures, Ltd. – www.exposuresltd.com

Learning on many levels
Educational sessions that included studies on specific segments of the healthcare professional market, such as nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants and “no-see docs” (the doctors who won’t or can’t see reps in their offices or hospitals), gave attendees marketing information to help shape their convention schedules and participation. Case studies that highlighted successful programs in pharmaceutical and medical device exhibit marketing, as well as new trends in association meetings, helped attendees of all member categories benchmark their own programs.

High level strategy presentations, such as product life cycle management and developing meaningful projections on prescribing behavior as a result of conventions, were part of the education that took place, while other sessions encouraged sharing ideas for implementing technology on the part of either the individual exhibitor or the association planning the meeting. And of course, as always, compliance was a hot topic, with sessions that explored the implementation of guidelines from Advamed and PhRMA as well as state laws and other legal standards.

Networking, roundtables and a little rock & roll

Education

Education sessions prove there are no limits to learning.
©2011 Exposures, Ltd. – www.exposuresltd.com

HCEA has always provided unparalleled networking opportunities, and the Las Vegas meeting was no exception. On Saturday , prior to the opening of the meeting, many members who arrived early could volunteer to assemble picnic tables, planters and swing sets for families of U.S. service members through Operation Homefront. Saturday golfers “chipped for charity,” and proceeds from Mulligans and the putting contest were donated to Operation Homefront. And while all this was going on, associate members had a half day reserved to talk about issues specific to their missions at the Association Only Roundtable.

Saturday evening, New York New York was the venue for a fantastic opening reception, with food, drink and music indoors and out. Immediately prior to this event, HCEA newcomers attended their own reception and were given a short course in how to participate effectively in the Annual Meeting.

Sunday night was a ‘free night’ when many supporting members arranged suppers for customers. However, it was also the night for the 11th Annual “Non Sanctioned, No Obligation” Party at the Hard Rock on the Strip. Local band, the Spazmatics, played until 1 a.m., were helped in no small part by HCEA’s own “Displaysments” featuring Chuck Michel, Dave Mihalik, Laine Mann and other member rockers including Nick Simonette, Walt Rich, Gary Fredrikson, Wes Mower and Jack Whittaker

The Displaysments

The Displaysments rock the house.
©2011 Exposures, Ltd. – www.exposuresltd.com

Although the meeting didn’t end until after noon on Tuesday, with attendance at the sessions robust up until the last minute, the annual closing party was held Monday evening in the Wynn pool area. Sponsored by Sho-Aids, the party featured great food, drinks, and a chance to unwind with the rest of the attendees plus treats like a DJ and a magician.

The approximate attendance at the meeting was 705, a mixture of regular members (healthcare corporate exhibitors), associate members (those responsible for exhibiting as association meetings) and supporting members (suppliers to the industry). Unopposed exhibit hours gave these three groups a chance to mingle informally and find solutions to new challenges.

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