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Healthcare compliance: the golden triangle of client-agency-venue collaboration

This blog follows on from my recent post summing up highlights from the second Compliance Workshop in Hammersmith hosted by Healthcare-Venues.com.  Once we had explored the trends and challenges of the healthcare compliance landscape, the conversation turned to what all parties could do to support both the letter and the spirit of regulation.

A lively panel discussion followed on how to more effectively promote compliance through deeper engagement between healthcare companies, agencies and venues.

Familiarity breeds success

One observation was on the benefit of working with specialist agency partners that are fluent in the language of healthcare and up-to-date on compliance. Stakeholders should be able to assume a level of prior knowledge when briefing agencies – for example, exactly what type of meeting room set-up and audio-visual equipment is required for an Advisory Board or Investigator Meeting. Venue-finding platforms have their place in narrowing the initial search, but it’s not simply a question of sourcing a meeting space that will accommodate a given number of people: human-to-human interaction remains vital to ensuring all parties have a thorough understanding of what is optimal for a specific meeting format or audience.

Experienced venues should be aware of the strict requirements of healthcare business and the accommodations they need to make in order to host such events – from food and beverage caps to privacy and exclusivity and the facilities required to create a professional learning environment. Not every venue is so healthcare-savvy and will rely on the ability of a specialist event agency such as TTA to interpret a hotel or meeting space through the lens of the client’s objectives.

Clients do, however, have a duty to be explicit and proactive when it comes to their organisation’s Rules of Engagement. For example, if a healthcare delegate makes a request that infringes the client’s compliance regulations, the agency should be equipped with clear guidelines on the escalation process within the client organisation rather than risking embarrassment at the desk. After all, it’s the business owner who is held accountable for any breach of compliance – not the agency or the venue.

The need for transparency is clear

It was mentioned was that some venues are reluctant to break down a day delegate rate to enable agencies to report on transfer of value. While being asked to disclose costs may feel commercially intrusive, it’s a non-negotiable element of the compliance process. Agencies should take the opportunity to explain upfront the significance of total transparency on compliance as part of their venue liaison activities to mitigate any friction or delays.

It was also reported anecdotally that some venues have an insufficient grasp of the realities of clients’ internal compliance processes, only keeping facilities on hold for 48 hours pending approval. Realistically, compliance checks and internal processes tend to take three days – or more, if the approver is out of the office. In such cases, agencies can add value as an interface by communicating these practicalities and managing the venue’s expectations of a response.

The evolving role of the Compliance Officer

As compliance becomes increasingly professionalised through continuous learning and the formalisation of the job of Compliance Officer, we’re starting to see the compliance function fulfil a more advisory role, morphing from “policing” to “enabling”.

To that end, when bringing a new agency on board, it would be beneficial for clients to involve their Compliance Officer as well as marketing and procurement representatives at the earliest possible stage. This will help to ensure that any prospective partner meets the baseline requirements for compliance knowledge and starts the relationship on the best possible footing.

Getting around the same table

One interesting suggestion raised was that healthcare companies could host an “exchange day” – an opportunity to bring together all stakeholders, venues, agencies, production companies and other partners involved on a specific project at inception, to share information and best practices. This can only strengthen collaboration and, just as importantly, foster greater empathy between all parties in surmounting the challenges that are part and parcel of the dynamic and demanding world of healthcare events.