Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center will no longer take funds from the pharmaceutical industry for education programs. In the past, Sloan-Kettering relied on the drug industry for approximately one-quarter of its educational funding, having to make cuts in order to adapt. That has changed.
Many people feel that medical institutions—and the medical profession, in general—should wean themselves off of the major drug money payouts of big pharmaceuticals, that today’s doctor has become little more than another marketing arm for these big drug companies. Doctors are often sent on fully paid teaching trips to vacation spots and posh hotels, all paid for by big drug money. As a matter-of-fact, the drug and device industries spend more than one billion dollars each year funding continuing medical education—or CME—for doctors and other health-care providers. Many find this practice a glaring conflict of interest and there is growing concern about the drug industries’ influence on the content of the education for which they are funding.
Finally, some hospitals are looking to divest themselves from big drug money and are working at implementing their own institution-run continuing medical education programs.
One such example of a hospital breaking out on its own is that of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Sloan-Kettering initiated its own in-house education program early last year, according to the industry trade publication Medical Meetings.
While Sloan-Kettering has some advantages over many other hospitals, there are still some steps which can be taken by smaller facilities. In Sloan-Kettering’s case, they have a world-famous and respected name. They also have a store of in-house experts and an on-site conference center that seats 350 in a popular, metropolitan area. Today, Sloan-Kettering is able to—and does—hold more meetings on the cancer center campus instead of in swanky hotel ballrooms as it had in the past. Sloan-Kettering also uses their in-house experts to give seminars instead of flying in and housing expensive speakers from out of town.
Not every hospital has the benefit of maintaining a staff of subject matter experts to have on-hand for such events and not every hospital has a an in-house conference center that seats hundreds, but there are changes the cancer hospital made that any other institution could also easily make. For instance, Sloan-Kettering also cut back on both sending junk mail and on buying advertisement space in journals to promote its CME events to potential attendees. The cancer center also got rid of free lunches for everyone attending conferences and raised registration fees by 10% to 20% for non-Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center participants. “When you really focus on the quality of the program—and stop worrying about the amenities and the place where you can hold it—then you’re looking at what the objective of CME is,” Thomas Fahey, Jr., chairman of the hospital’s CME committee, told Medical Meetings. “In the long run, this will keep us much more focused on what’s important.”
Other professionals—attorneys and accountants, for example—do not rely on vendors, especially vendors with a financial interest in what is taught, to pay for their CME.
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