Event compliance is a number one priority in the pharma industry. But it shouldn’t be a barrier to innovation. By understanding the event compliance landscape and working with experienced partners, life science companies can use event technology to drive engagement and enhance the experience for both HCPs and KOLs.
It’s time to show life science companies that it’s never been easier to follow event compliance rules with hybrid and virtual event platforms. And that there are many ways to keep HCPs engaged while complying with laws and regulations.
What is pharma event compliance?
The pharma industry is unlike any other because its products and knowledge can prolong and save people’s lives. That means it has stricter ethical standards and compliance regulations to conform with because patients rely on the medicines and vaccines it produces.
It is therefore key for medical events to rigorously respect compliance rules.
But what do we mean by ‘event compliance’?
HCP events need to abide by regulations and codes of practice such as the IFPMA, and EFPIA, as well as legal frameworks such as the GDPR.
There are two challenges with these legal documents:
- They evolve over time, so life science companies must keep up to speed with them and constantly adapt.
- They clearly lay down the rules to follow but don’t explain the concrete actions that life science companies should take to comply with them.
Overcoming these challenges is a constant struggle for life science companies, especially when using event technology. And many still believe it is very difficult to run compliant medical events using event technology.
After powering 2,000+ fully compliant medical events over the past 2 years with our life science event platform, we at SpotMe can confirm that this is certainly not the case!
So, let’s bust some myths!
If you’re interested in finding out more about SpotMe in relation to these regulations, check out our articles on SpotMe’s GDPR implementation and data residency.
Time to bust 5 myths with regard to pharma event compliance
When the pandemic hit, most industries had already dipped their toes into virtual events. The pharma industry? Not so much.
This meant that life science companies had to adapt fast. With in-person events no longer an option, they turned to virtual-only events. And that came with its challenges, especially with regard to event compliance.
Challenges started to emerge with regard to running compliant medical events entirely online. And even now, with hybrid events on the rise in the pharma industry, there are some myths about pharma event compliance when using event technology.
Myth #1: It’s difficult to run virtual and hybrid life science events and respect event compliance rules because of the different laws worldwide
Digital events have increased by 600% compared to pre-pandemic (Veeva CRM Engage for Events, April 2021–April 2022). And our customers from 10 out of the top 15 pharma companies have told us that they’re being encouraged to go back to meeting and interacting in person.
But the pharma industry doesn’t want to lose out on the many benefits that virtual events bring. Especially given that 96% of HCPs say they would benefit from more virtual HCP events and conferences (MedData Group). So, there’s a clear move towards more hybrid events.
Caroline confirmed this during our interview with her, stating:
According to Caroline, a key piece of information to consider in order to follow event compliance rules at virtual and hybrid life science events is where the legal entities of the organizers involved are based and where the event is taking place. This allows pharma companies to draw up contracts and agreements based on relevant laws and comply with them without any doubts or confusion. It also allows them to respect the appropriate pharmaceutical codes according to the location of the event.
So, for example, if a pharma company in Chicago is organizing an event in Chicago, US compliance regulations will apply as the event is taking place in the US. Local regulations must always be taken into consideration and will always prevail.
Once you establish which legal entity to take into consideration and where it is based (something that happens early on in event organization), you can easily follow event compliance rules and liaise with HCPs worldwide according to the pharmaceutical regulations that apply.
We’ve created the ultimate guide to pharmaceutical meeting and event planning to help you run successful pharma events. Check it out now.
Myth #2: There’s no way pharma companies can follow event compliance rules and keep HCP engagement high at the same time
Caroline believes that it’s not difficult for pharma companies to meet event compliance standards and engage HCPs at the same time at virtual and hybrid events. They simply need to prepare well beforehand and engage with their compliance/ad promo business partners upfront. Once all the processes are in place, engaging HCPs is not as hard as it seems.
For example, take commercial medical events where you have virtual booths. You’ll need to prepare the following:
- Use a virtual/hybrid event platform that adheres to event compliance standards
- Have all documents in a place on the event platform that HCPs can view and access easily
- Brief the chair and the speakers on the topics that can be addressed in accordance with compliance rules (paying specific attention to off-label questions, subjective comparisons, misleading statements)
- Set up the Q&A feature on your event platform so that HCPs can easily ask questions and engage with speakers
- Have someone from the regulatory, legal, compliance or medical team (or a person from each) who will moderate and filter HCPs’ questions on the event platform so that questions raised comply with the appropriate laws and codes of practice.
Most HCP event platform providers tackle the question of event compliance upfront. They present the different ways to keep HCPs engaged and help pharma companies put the procedures in place so that their virtual and hybrid events are compliant but engage HCPs at the same time.
Learn more about HCP engagement from our blog post that was inspired by session on ‘Building solutions and skills to support the future of medical education’ led by Doreen Lee (Medical Excellence Manager, Boehringer Ingelheim), Donseok Ahn (Global IT Director – Medical, Reckitt), and Pierre Metrailler (CEO, SpotMe) at the most recent Veeva APAC Commercial Summit.
Myth #3: Running shorter sessions is the only way to keep HCPs engaged at life science events while respecting event compliance standards
In the past, engaging HCPs was as simple as organizing an in-person event and letting them interact with one another. But HCPs are no longer happy with traditional methods. In fact, 78% of HCPs would like a mixture of in-person and virtual events (Ashfield Healthcare).
This is forcing life science companies to rethink how they engage HCPs at events. How can they create a really interactive and immersive experience at a hybrid or virtual event?
Of course, running shorter sessions on a variety of different topics does reduce attendance drop-off rates. And it’s a very easy way to keep engagement high without causing any issues with event compliance. But it’s definitely not the only way!
Nowadays, event technology has a range of features that can keep HCPs engaged. And staying compliant while using them is simple. The key is to provide HCPs with interactive activities online that get them actively involved. If you just let them sit motionless, they’ll get bored, won’t focus, and won’t absorb any of your important medical information.
Here are 6 things we have seen pharma companies doing at their events to boost HCP engagement while staying compliant:
1. Pre-recorded speeches
This is a technique that is undoubtedly in line with event compliance standards. By pre-recording parts of your life science event, you can make sure that your content complies with relevant laws, regulations, and codes before it goes out to HCPs. And it keeps engagement high if you have a mix of both live and pre-recorded sessions at your events.
To find out how to find, recruit, and nurture KOLs to come and speak at your events to keep HCPs engaged, read our latest post the ultimate KOL engagement plan for successful pharma events.
2. Breakout sessions
Use small interactive sessions with a group of HCPs to break up your event and get them talking to each other just like they would at an in-person event.
We hear a lot of our pharma customers telling our teams:
But for Caroline, this needs to evolve in the pharma industry. Especially because HCPs interact at in-person events. So, why shouldn’t they at virtual ones?
Of course, at medical education events, you may want to discuss hard scientific data that have sometimes not been published yet. So, owners and companies have to be very careful about how they share/disclose those data.
In this case, Caroline suggests setting up very small breakout sessions in the form of advisory boards with a KOL and two or three HCPs who are experts bound by confidentiality agreements/clauses to avoid any issues of disclosing confidential information.
On the other hand, when discussing published data the audience already knows about or products that have already been released, pharma companies may be less reluctant about organizing breakout sessions as this information is publicly available.
You can easily make Q&A in line with event compliance standards by appointing a moderator who filters all the questions to make sure they are in line with relevant laws and regulations. This way, questions that are shared with the entire audience will be compliant. Getting attendees to ask questions is a great way for them to interact with the KOLs and keep them engaged.
4. Event apps
With advances in technology, there are now mobile event apps to help keep digital native HCPs engaged. The apps that are tailored specifically to the pharma industry have one-click access to SmPCs and PIs, and adverse events reporting links, among other things, to ensure they adhere to event compliance.
5. Meet the expert 1:1 sessions / Medical ad board sessions
Giving HCPs the option to meet with KOLs in 1:1 sessions when they are not presenting is a great way to engage HCPs as they have the chance to discuss specific questions they may have and raise their points privately with an expert.
To organize effective KOL and HCP meetings, consult our definitive guide.
6. On-demand content hubs
HCPs have less and less time, so giving them the chance to watch event content on demand is a great way to keep them engaged. There are gated on-demand content hubs that help pharma companies remain compliant while giving HCPs a life-like post-event experience.
On the hunt for a list of the top medical communications companies to help you plan better pharma events? Check out our list.
Myth #4: It’s impossible for pharma companies to use event tech and respect GDPR compliance for events
We at SpotMe noticed from our life science customers at the beginning of the pandemic that there was some reluctance to use event technology. Although they knew they had to follow the rules for GDPR compliance for events, they didn’t really know what they were and weren’t allowed to do.
Now that 70% of HCPs are digital natives (according to Veeva and Ashfield Health), pharma companies are realizing that event technology is key in boosting HCP engagement.
And it is possible to use event tech and adhere to GDPR compliance for events at the same time.
Pharma companies based in Europe can sometimes be audited in terms of data processing. They have to show they comply with the GDPR regulations by providing the following information:
- Who processes the data
- Who the data owner is
- How the data is stored
- How long the data is stored
- What the entire process is
So, this is why pharma companies may be hesitant about using event technology. But, companies that specialize in event platforms for the life science industry are well aware of this. And they have clear and accessible GDPR-compliant privacy policies in place so that, if audited, pharma companies can show complete transparency with how data is processed at their virtual or hybrid events.
Caroline suggests asking the following question in your very first call with an event technology vendor to prevent any event compliance issues:
Are you using third parties to store your data? Are your data stored in an external cloud?
Myth #5: It’s not possible to organize engaging international pharma events and abide by the IFPMA & EFPIA using event tech
If you’re a pharma company, you’ll be fully familiar with the following 2 codes of practice regarding event compliance:
- The IFPMA Code of Practice (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations)
- The EFPIA Code of Practice (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries & Associations)
Both codes apply to all types of communication and interaction (traditional and digital). So, of course, they apply to any kind of event – in-person, hybrid, or virtual – where communication and interaction are an integral aspect.
And guess what? It is possible to respect these codes while using event technology.
Caroline suggests pharma companies take the following actions to respect the above event compliance regulations while using event technology at international events:
- Set up and share well-rounded confidentiality agreements and contracts
- Include a consent clause within the event contract if contents will be shared in order to define the conditions and frameworks
- Lay down how content will be communicated and shared
- Be transparent about who is sponsoring the event, and who previously sponsored the speakers (disclosures)
- Be clear on what can be communicated in terms of event content based on the market authorizations (e.g. off-label questions are prohibited)
- Be diligent when submitting your HCPs’ payments to the authorities, and when defining the fair market values and how HCPs will receive payments
With regard to fair market values, pharma companies work on adapting them regularly according to the type of event organized and in order to comply with the IFPMA requirements. For example, suppose HCPs or KOLs participate in the in-person part of a hybrid event. In that case, they will receive compensation for all the time they dedicate to the event. This may include time for travel under certain conditions. But, suppose they participate virtually, the compensation will be adapted to the amount of time and effort HCPs and KOLs put into the event remotely.
Discover how to build effective e-marketing & omnichannel strategies for pharma now in our article.
What to look for in an event platform that fully respects pharma event compliance regulations
So, you’ve seen that respecting event compliance regulations while using event technology is possible in today’s world. But, when looking for the right event platform to help you keep HCP engagement high and respect event compliance rules, we recommend finding one with the following features:
Regulatory documents like SmPCs (summary of product characteristics) and PIs (prescribing information) should be available with one click of a button. And this button must be clearly visible as soon as HCPs enter the event platform or app.
It must be possible for someone to filter all the questions that HCPs ask so that only compliant questions are visible to attendees.
Job code displays from MLR reviews
Job codes must often be visible to participants at all times. The event platform should be able to display it on the home page, home menu, emails, and across all the pages if needed.
Dynamic privacy policies
You must be able to upload different privacy policies and disclaimers at an event level based on legal entity, language, or geography.
Extra points if the platform can add disclaimers in the platform as well. E.g. certain functionalities might be optional and might require additional consent. Participants can accept the generic policy to enter the event and give further consent if they participate in more advanced functionalities.
It must be possible to add a disclaimer on the platform and on the speaker slides.
Choice of event-based functionalities
You must be able to add, remove or rename functionalities based on the nature of the event, creating templates by event type. This helps to maintain the right balance between engagement & event compliance.
Advanced free text moderation on the feed
It must be possible for someone to moderate all the posts that HCPs would like to publish on the event platform feed so that only compliant posts are visible to other attendees.
CME credits & certificates of attendance
This is a fundamental feature to allow HCPs to collect CME credits and certificates of attendance after medical education events.
Reporting (registration, attendance, engagement)
There must be a range of reporting options available, so you can gather statistics to analyze and use to inform your future HCP events.
You must be able to choose who your content is targeted at – attendees or speakers, for example – especially if it is confidential.
Optional participant list display
There must be the option to display the participant list or not depending on the confidentiality of the medical event.
Adverse events reporting link
KOLs and HCPs must be able to report any adverse events using a clearly visible and accessible link at any time during the event.
Prescribing information (PI) display
KOLs and HCPs should be able to access in one-click the prescribing information if required.
Medical CRM integration (e.g. Veeva)
The platform must be integrated with a medical CRM to help you foster informed scientific engagement across channels.
If you’re looking for the right life science event platform with all the above features, download our ultimate RFP template. It saves you time and effort and helps you find the right vendor to help you achieve your goals in 2023.
SpotMe may be the compliant event platform you’re looking for
As well as having 10+ years’ experience in the medical education event field and 50% of our customers from the life science industry, we are proud to work with 10 of the top 15 pharma companies to help them run engaging HCP events with our compliant event platform.
So, we know what it means to host life science events that are in line with event compliance rules. That’s why we’ve extensively developed all of the above features to help pharma companies just like yours. Plus, we’ve been a Veeva silver technology partner for 2+ years.
If you’d like to be “impressed by the technicality and the great digital aspects of the platform” like Caroline was, request a demo now.
Thank you to the many life science event industry and compliance experts who contributed to the creation of this article.
Disclaimer: Please note that the speaker’s interview is based on their own experience and view and does not engage that of Takeda under any circumstances.