When planning and executing a global meeting with Healthcare Professionals (“HCPs”), the best tool with which we can equip ourselves is a good plan of action. The complexity of interaction between internal compliance requirements and local regulations is amplified by the number of parties, internal and external, who will ultimately be involved in the planning and execution of the event. By being proactive and thinking ahead of possible challenges, we can avoid many pitfalls and ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. The five tips below will help you combat compliance and policy challenges while successfully executing a global meeting.
1. Demonstrate a positive attitude towards compliance
The power of positive attitude is often underestimated, especially in relation to compliance guidelines. If you view your company’s compliance guidelines (or, in case of third parties, the compliance guidelines of your client) as there to help you navigate the requirements (and not hinder your planning), it will go a long way in setting the tone for how your meeting planning will flow from the start. Displaying a positive attitude from the beginning will have a trickle-down effect to all of the people involved with the planning.
Another aspect where positive attitude will help is when communicating compliance limitations. For example, you might be asked to book a flight in a non-compliant class of travel or accommodation in an inappropriate hotel. Phrasing your reply in terms of what you are able to offer instead of “blaming” compliance guidelines will help the recipient understand limitations in a gentler way.
2. Be ahead of the game
Taking the time to truly understand the specific rules by which your event will be bound will help you be ahead of the game and will make planning your global meeting easier. When the attendees of your meeting are from several different countries it is imperative to consider all of the various rules that will apply, as collision is possible. Some countries have laws and regulations that only apply to HCPs originating from such country; while others have laws and regulations governing HCP interactions taking place in that country, regardless of HCP nationality/country of residence. Taking the time to understand all of the applicable rules to be followed for your meeting will allow you to be proactive and plan in accordance with such rules from the start. This will save you time (and headaches!) in the long run as you will not need to make adjustments to your already-existing plans at the last minute. When in doubt, seek the advice of a local compliance contact or legal counsel if possible.
3. Communicate “the why” to the stakeholders involved
A common mistake that occurs in the execution of global meetings is that only the rules, and not the rationale behind the rules, are communicated to all stakeholders. For those working in the life sciences industry, compliance rules and regulations governing interactions with HCPs are commonplace. But keep in mind that these rules and regulations might be new or not fully clear for the vendors with whom we interact (for example, hotels and restaurants). Vendors working in the service industry are generally more focused on providing their guests with the best possible experience and are unlikely to see how a complementary upgrade can present a compliance problem. If your contact at the hotel does not understand why, for example, a complementary upgrade to a luxurious suite or a welcome bottle of wine for an HCP guest gives the wrong perception, then the likelihood of a non-compliant activity taking place increases. Taking the time to explain the context or rationale behind compliance rules to your vendors, external partners and onsite team will not only increase everyone’s awareness about following the rules, but also will empower them to be on the lookout for possible compliance violations.
4. Ensure everything is in place prior to going onsite
While we do not advocate for a “tick the box” mentality when it comes to compliance guidelines, there are times when having a checklist is helpful and appropriate. Having one document that tracks all of the steps required by your compliance department in executing a global meeting makes it easier for you to ensure that you didn’t inadvertently skip an important step in your planning. A document like this will also support your mission to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to identifying possible compliance pitfalls.
5. Instruct your Onsite Team
Thoroughly instructing your onsite team is a crucial step in combatting compliance challenges in the successful execution of global meetings. Preparing a document informing the team of any specific items for which to look out as well as contact information for last-minute onsite compliance issues/requests can prevent issues needing remediation post-event. Again, emphasizing that the onsite team should have a positive attitude towards compliance will support that the message received by outside observers is a positive one.
Hear more from Jovana Paredes and Marlize Eckert at Pharma Forum 2018 as they lead a think tank discussion on “Aha Moments” for Managing Compliance Regulations.
About the Authors:
Marlize Eckert is Head Compliance Solutions at GCO (Global Conference Organisers) B.V. based in The Netherlands. GCO is a professional meetings and events’ organiser within the life sciences industry, successfully operating with a global footprint for close to 30 years.
Marlize manages the Compliance department focusing on pharmaceutical compliance requirements and mandatory reports related to meetings and events within the Pharma industry such as Open Payments and EFPIA Disclosure reports.
Marlize has previously held an office manager and compliance related position at Samsung Corporation, a sales related position at Xerox Corporation and a project coordinator position at a non-profit organization travelling worldwide promoting education by supplying vital literature resources, encouraging cross-cultural understanding, training young people and providing needed relief.
Marlize earned a bachelor degree in business administration from the Pontifical Catholic University in Brazil, has a Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certification (HMCC) and a European Healthcare Compliance Certification (HCCP) by Seton Hall Law University.
Prior to joining GCO (Global Conference Organisers), Jovana worked all over the world as a legal officer in various United Nations international war crimes tribunals, achieving the experience trifecta of Prosecution, Chambers and Defense roles.
From there, she worked in the in-house legal department of the largest aircraft leasing company in the world, where her passions for contract management and regulatory compliance were sparked.
Currently, Jovana works as a Compliance Expert at GCO where she ensures that the life sciences events organized by GCO meet each client’s specific compliance rules are reported in a timely manner and are audit-ready. Alongside her wonderful team, she prepares and delivers industry and client-specific SOPs and training to GCO’s Operations teams.
Jovana holds a law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California and a Masters in Public International Law (LL.M) from the University of Amsterdam.