It's OK to cut back on Krispy Kremes

Friday, July 31, 2009

WASHINGTON--HME providers can thank Big Pharma for helping to level the playing field when it comes to wining and dining referral sources, say industry attorneys.

Over the past year, PhRMA, a trade group representing pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, and AdvMed, a similar association for medical device companies, revamped their codes of ethics to crack down on excessive gift giving to healthcare professionals.

Hospitals also have begun to develop polices that say “we accept no gifts across the board,” said healthcare attorney Asela Cuervo.

Those efforts go hand-in-hand with the nation’s attempt to rein in healthcare spending. The net result: a budding culture shift where providers rely less on wining and dining and gift giving to win business and more on products, services and expertise, say industry attorneys.

“Marketing will become more about what your product is and what it can do and less about who can take the doctor to the nicest golf course,” Cuervo said. “Right now everyone operates on the expectation that marketing includes some of these activities.”

In the HME industry, the likely impact will be not be a total moratorium on gifts, but a significant curtailment, said Jeff Baird, a healthcare attorney with Brown & Fortunato in Amarillo, Texas.

“I think that basic type of entertainment is still going to be there,” Baird said.  “But we’ll see fewer and fewer nice dinners at country clubs where an educational presentation is put on.”

Likewise, Baird said, he expects to see providers scale back on lunches and other gifts to referral sources.

“Krispy Kremes, Dunkin’ Donuts and bagels - instead of dropping those off once a week, he’ll drop them off once every three weeks,” he said.