4 May 2018

GPDU 2018: Yes, we do have sponsors. Here’s why

CPD Education

What sponsor package do you think is the easiest to sell at a medical conference? It is always a chance to speak directly to the delegates and subtlety, or not, sell your sponsor message to the audience of healthcare professionals.

Sometimes these sponsored chats can actually be very informative and entertaining. But the “admins” who run GPDU wouldn’t have a bar of content somehow being influenced, whether good content or not. To be safe, good content, they say, should be free of any commercial influence. Good content, they maintain, will usually float to the top.

Nothing you see in session at GPDU will be paid for. All speakers, panel members and moderators are selected independently for their content value only. Mind you, this does not guarantee you won’t hit a session which will cure your insomnia. It happens no matter how well you plan.

If you want tickets for GPDU, to be held on the Gold Coast May 30 to June 1,  CLICK HERE and use the TMR reader code GPDU1815 for 15% off all ticket combos.

So if you can’t speak, what’s the next best thing that sponsors jump at do you think?

It’s the coffee cart.

I always wonder about the logic of that. I am a keen coffee cart client at conferences, but I never see them chatting about product or the profession. Usually they are manned by baristas. So the idea here is passive. Good coffee for free equals a good feeling and that transfers to the kind souls that provide you with this experience. It’s a brand thing. Our coffee cart sponsor is Australian Clinical Labs.

But after the coffee cart what’s going on?

The trick used by most seasoned conference organisers is to trap their delegates in a reasonably confined space at the watering and feeding breaks, and put the sponsors in tripping distance. Once delegates finish their muffin and get through their emails and social media, they inevitably get restless wander to the stands to see what is on offer.

Being seasoned conference organisers, our exhibition space is where the food and coffee is. But we are upping the ante just a little for GPDU.

We’ve had a quick think about all our sponsors and we can’t think of one of them who doesn’t have something interesting to say to you and who you wouldn’t benefit from some interaction with during the two days they are manning their stands or outside going smoko in the lovely outdoors grass area just next to the exhibition area.

Here’s some reasons for each exhibitor you might want to stop by and say hi.

Boehringer Ingelheim: Our largest supporter… by a fair bit.

OMG! You have a pharma company sponsoring?

If you are close to GPDU you won’t be surprised to find out that when I suggested it allows some pharma presence at its first event there was a little bit of push back from some of the admins. You probably know all the arguments that arose early among the admins about the possible consequences of taking pharma money to help you run your event.

Because GPDU has such a flat governance structure, when it needs to make a decision they all jump in and get down and dirty spinning noisily out of control. The process reminds me of the Tasmanian Devil scenes in the Looney Tunes cartoons (you have to be over 50 to get that).

I prepared the idea of getting one or two pharma sponsors by putting together a few notes on why it might be good to have some presence from Pharma at the meeting. Things like, they make the drugs you prescribe all day every day, they put a lot of money and effort into GP education, if doctors want to change pharma they need to talk to pharma at some point, and, what could possibly go wrong? They are all now highly regulated, so it is very hard for them to actively do the wrong thing these days. You know, like the CBA and AMP are highly regulated. Then I threw it all over the fence to them to argue and ran far away – it can get noisy.

A few days on, after much email and social media debate the answer came back.

In the end, Pharmas are an integral part of the medical community whether doctors like them or not. Excluding them entirely doesn’t not make a lot of sense in end. We agreed to start with one pharma company sponsor.

We put together some agreed criteria for a good pharma sponsor with GPDU, a list of potentials (there were quite a few) and when we went to test the idea in a pre-meeting with one of them. We sold the sponsorship right there and then. Boehringer Ingelheim loved the idea of GPDU.

What were our criteria?

The candidate company had to:

  • Be entirely happy to not have any involvement in the organisation or content of the conference. This is made easier for most pharmas by very strict rules on sponsorship at conferences by their governance group Medicines Australia, but even the MA code allows a sponsoring company to be able to deliver content under certain conditions. Our specific ask was that they it was a largely a hands-off goodwill gesture of supporting a grass-roots GP learning and peer support organisation. BI get to exhibit and be thanked a lot. But that’s it. The rest is faith in the idea that GPDU is a good thing for GPs, learning and medicine.
  • Be willing to risk their support and money on something entirely new and untested – the first GPDU conference, and one that was focusing on largely social media in medicine
  • Have a suitably cleanskin record in the doctor community

BI is our platinum sponsor, which is a nice way of saying it is supporting the conference more than anyone else. What does it want to get out of GPDU18?

Andrew Roberts, who is the marketing manager for BI, told me that he’d love would to understand better how digitally evolved and evolving doctors want to learn about what they provide – new drugs and devices. “The expectations of doctors are changing rapidly and we don’t want to waste their time or annoy them. We want to understand better how to engage meaningfully with them in what is a rapidly evolving digital ecosystem,” he told TMR.

Why else would you visit the BI stand?

  • Talk to a pharma company person and ask them some hard questions. You might be one of that growing group of doctors that don’t see pharma reps anymore. If so, here’s your chance to interact.
  • See some new products in respiratory and diabetes. And what is in the R&D pipeline for the major chronic disease states from pharma.
  • Get a pen (Actually, I have no idea if they are giving away pens).

Other controversial exhibitors?

Very early on in the sponsor process I had a conversation with one of the GPDU admins who was reasonably adamant that certain companies just should not be allowed to exhibit or sponsor. I can’t tell you, of course, who these companies were but both are exhibiting and here is why.

GPDU describes itself as a national park where community is paramount. Sometimes the ecosystem of a national park can be significantly disturbed by just one or two of the species living in the park for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes an imbalance will be caused by an external factor, like interference from outside the park. That sounds a little like how the federal government manages funding signals for primary care.

Sometimes of course, things are just changing inside the park and other species have to adapt. An example of that might be the technology changes we are seeing in primary care including the introduction of new cloud based patient management systems, the introduction of the MHR and big changes in interoperability coming down the line. Usually, so long as the external interference isn’t too poorly managed, things end up balancing themselves out.

GPDU’s admins, after spinning around with a lot of noise for a day or so, emerged with the logic that all these companies are a part of the park. And interacting with them should be the choice of their delegates. But not letting them live in the park at all? That didn’t sit with their community values in the end.

Reasons to be cheerful (about exhibitors) …

 Here’s something on each of our sponsors and exhibitors which I hope gives you a little more incentive to engage with them other than your mobile phone battery just went dead.

Overall, GPDU18, the live event, could not have happened without the support of all these sponsors. Nearly all of them invested on the premise that GPDU seems like a great idea and they wanted to support that idea. They all loved the “ground up grass roots” nature of the movement. They have all taken a leap of faith in the idea that GPDU is a vehicle for good in a changing GP community.


Good companies inevitably become great because they have great purpose. The purpose of Healthshare, according to CEO Rami Weiss, is to “help doctors get back to enjoying what they love most in practising medicine”. Healthshare  concentrates on a supplying a raft of services and information to doctors, which reduce red tape and administration, and increase effective time in front of patients. One such service is a widget on your patient management system that polls the nature of your consult and offers relevant patient information sheets for your patient on the fly. The group has got more interesting stuff coming.


OK everyone knows Avant and what it does. What’s new? Well, it’s a social media conference. And social media can be a very tricky thing to navigate. One thing Avant is looking closely at now is how doctors manage their social media presence and keep things on an even keel. Social media is like oxygen these days for most patients, so understanding it, using it and understanding how to do it without getting yourself into trouble is, believe it not, an emerging area of learning in primary care.

Primary Health Care

I once thought that Telstra was the worst organisation and brand ever in the history of Telecoms and perhaps even Australian iconic brands. I gave it no chance of ever changing. Then the CEO changed to David Thodey and within three years I was actually a Telstra advocate. Thodey changed the people and the culture. And some of the people he had doing things were stunning. Primary Health Care seems to have changed a lot more than the CEO recently and to be on a similar journey. Corporates aren’t for everyone, but for some, they offer a certain and effective medical lifestyle. Talk to CEO Malcolm who will be wandering around getting feedback.


Uberdoc is a start-up that promises to be literally like uber for doctors. Hence the name we guess. It has a service where it says it is gathering an army of mobile doctors on call and it is going to facilitate them to do anything anywhere. That’s a big ask. Should be an interesting group to chat to.

Heartcare Partners and Wesley Hyperbaric Centre

Locals and community almost always go together. If you want to get a feel for the local Queensland community of medical professionals then go and talk to Heartcare Partners and Wesley Hyperbaric Centre, who are both exhibiting. Heartcare Partners is one of Queensland’s largest providers of cardiac care and Wesley Hyperbaric Centre based in Brisbane is Queensland only private hyperbaric day hospital and provides treatment for all approved medical conditions, the most common relating to chronic wounds and damage caused by radiotherapy.


The Australian College of Rural and Remote medicine has blazed a trail for the recognition and development of rural general practice training and education. Some of the work it has  done on developing rural and remote medicine is now used and recognised around the world. Its got its own conference coming up this year in Darwin where the themes will be indigenous health, refugee health, tropical medicine, innovation in remote settings and rural research policy and practice. ACRRM’s Dr Ruth Stewart will be at the conference.

Bio Balance

Bio-Balance makes available in Australia information on the use of a comprehensive biochemical assessment and advanced complementary nutritional treatment of a range of disorders such as behavioural disorders, ADD, ADHD, learning disorders and Autism as well as mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

Australian Clinical Labs

 If you end up with good coffee, ACL bought it for you. It is Australia’s third largest pathology provider too.


 IPN is one of our two largest corporate medicine providers. It doesn’t have a stand but there will be quite a few people from IPN walking around and taking in the GPDU18 vibe and talking doctors to get some feedback on the way forward for corporate medicine. CEO Dr Ged Foley will be there and will feature on one of our panels.


Australia’s original practice management system provider are evolving rapidly and now offer a cloud version of its desktop MD software called Helix. Cloud-based patient management systems are game changing in many ways for practices, but you have to be ready for the change, because it’s a big change in how you manage your practice and workflows. MD CEO Matthew Bardsley is likely to be in the crowd. He is a strong supporter and advocate of the new technology.

Surgical Partners

You probably don’t think much about how much it actually costs for you patient management system to talk to other key systems, accounting systems in particular, but it’s a fortune. Out to save you that fortune is the Surgical Partners group whose main game is technology integration with your patient management system to create huge efficiency savings for practices. A key example would be seamless back-end integration with the cloud- based software phenomenon Xero. But there are a lot more applications.

PRN Info

PRN Info is a fascinating start-up formed by a few ex Reed Elsevier people who have enormous experience in medical information retrieval and in internet search. It has developed a new search engine protocol which overlays Google, and delivers much more relevant clinical information to healthcare professionals on the fly. The groups wants to ask you what you think. If you let it know you go into the draw to win a choice of Google Home Assistant or an Amazon Echo Dot. The future of search is audio!

Best Practice

If MedicalDirector is the original patient management software then Dr Frank Pyefinch, who is the founder of Best Practice, is the father of electronic patient management systems, having founded both MedicalDirector back in 1995, and then Best Practice in 2008. Best Practice and Medical Director between them supply 90% of the PMSs to primary care and both are evolving their systems rapidly to meet the new demands of primary care. Best Practice doesn’t have its cloud version ready yet, but it is about to release a patient-side app that talks to its desktop system which is feels like it might significantly change the primary care landscape.


Telehealth doesn’t seem like it should be such a big deal. How hard is it really? Welio is one of our most advanced telehealth start-ups, offering a system that is GP-centric, and is rumoured to be one of the features of the upcoming Best Practice patient app.


Miga, like Avant, is there for all the normal medical defence stuff, and, given the nature of the conference, to cover the social media angle of GPs, their businesses, their marketing and their professional persona. An interesting thing to do would be to visit both MIGA and Avant and compare notes. Then maybe write an article for The Medical Republic.

The Medical Republic

TMR is the primary media sponsor of GPDU18. Interestingly, because we have helped GPDU organise its first conference, some people have somehow got the idea TMR owns the group or has some sort of ownership of the conference. We don’t. We are just the organisers, like any other PCO (professional conference organisers). Both The Medical Republic and the Australian Doctor Group will be covering the conference for the medical media.


Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.

Get your tickets HERE. Use the TMR reader code GPDU1815 for a 15% discount off all ticket combos.

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2 Comments on "GPDU 2018: Yes, we do have sponsors. Here’s why"

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1 year 18 days ago

I was a member of this FB group but found the daily torrent of items in my feed overwhelming and all with very little content. I have heard the moderators speak at meetings with government agencies and they purport to represent 5000 members. I would suggest that they do not truly represent the views of those who folllow the page in the same way that the editor of the Australian newspaper, whose page I follow, does not represent my views.

Karen Price
Karen Price
1 year 18 days ago
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5882224/ Interesting suggestion. I cannot recollect any episode which resembles your suggestion. The situation you suggest is against our vision and aims and sounds very out of character from any of the admin team. Certainly I think I would remember a Government meeting. Notably GPDU is a flat hierarchy and every GP is a leader on GPDU. We are very aware that no single person or admin speaks for the 5500 members of Australian and New Zealand GPs. How could we imagine that when we spend much of our time facilitating robust debate and differing opinion. Perhaps you misunderstood. Regarding… Read more »