Recently, the Industry Alliance for Continuing Education (IACE) Benchmarking Working Group of the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions (ACEHP) issued its annual report, Benchmarking Insights 2017. This annual report is developed by surveying the medical education professionals of the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries to gain insights into standards and trends that are applied in commercial support of Independent Medical Education (IME).
Since 2009, the survey and subsequent report have been used as a way to learn and educate others about commercial supporters’ best practices related to the support of IME, advocacy efforts, and ongoing evaluations of supported educational programs.
The surveys for the annual reports have typically focused on benchmark practices and processes that are related to the industry funding of education grants, intended primarily for dissemination within supporter organizations to help facilitate benchmarking. In addition to standard benchmarking on budget, grants volumes and monitoring, this year, the survey also assessed role of industry in distributing invitations, what has improved, what remains as areas for improvement, and supporting repeat series activities.
This year, sixty organizations with US IME offices were identified and a survey with sixty questions on key IME areas of interest was developed, pilot tested, and sent to one key individual per organization from April to May 2017. Twenty-three organizations responded, with the bulk of respondents coming from the pharmaceutical industry.
One of the topics in the survey was budget. Previously data were reported based on IME budget ranges, which did not correlate to company annual revenue. This year, two-thirds of the respondents noted that their budgets were either similar or were increased compared to their 2016 budgets. As much as one-third of respondents also anticipated an increase in budget for 2017, which roughly one-third reported a decrease in budget. Half of the respondents predict that budgets will either remain stable or increase for 2018.
ACEHP has also invested significant resources addressing the importance of Quality Improvement (QI) as a means to integrate IME more centrally into the healthcare system; as such, multiple questions on QI were included in the survey to understand the level of support respondents have for QI goals. More than two-thirds of respondents have supported QI education in the past, with three-quarters of respondents having received QI proposals. Just under half of respondents who have supported QI programs in the past reported receiving the level of outcomes expected, while an additional 13% are awaiting outcomes yet to be reported.
With respect to grant details, the number of grants submitted has more or less remained similar over recent years. In 2017, one fourth of supporters reported having received less than 250 grant requests per year, while only one company reported receiving more than 2,500 grant applications per year. Interestingly, the volume of grants received is not dependent on the number of therapeutic areas supported.
When it comes to collaboration, sixty-one percent of respondents reported that they are open to communicating in some way with their industry peers in the same disease state. Additionally, of those who indicated that they do not currently communicate with others in their disease state, more than half were open to the idea. Further along the lines of collaboration, 14.3% of respondents believe that having a society partner has a positive impact on the grant review decision process, while less than half of respondents were unsure, or thought it had low to no impact at all.
A hot topic for the coming months is likely to be patient education. The benchmarking survey asked commercial supporters what kind of IME have been supported that are likely to have an impact on the patients, including education intended for patients as well as education intended for health care practitioners that integrate tools or concepts to increase patient engagement. The vast majority of respondents reported that topics related to patient engagement are part of their educational strategy.
For more information, you can find the benchmarking report here.