Advancing scientific meetings in HCP-pharma engagement – third in a series

Health Industry Hub | February 16, 2022 |
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Medical: In this third piece in a series, we share the perceived value of in-person, virtual and hybrid meetings for both healthcare professionals (HCPs) and pharma companies, features that add value to events, and how resources and delivery will evolve post-pandemic.

According to the multi-stakeholder report, most HCPs (>70%) consider all types of scientific meetings to be very important. Congresses and symposia are considered more important than virtual workshops and webinars. In-person events are perceived as being of slightly more importance than virtual and hybrid events. However, the differences are not very significant and most find virtual/online events just as good for learning as in-person.

HCPs attribute highest value to CME-accredited events, on-demand videos post events, and live case study discussions. Virtual exhibitions and audience polls rank low on the HCP list of perceived values from scientific meetings.

HCPs’ demand for virtual and hybrid events will remain much higher than pre-pandemic levels. However, virtual meetings and symposia have not been able to replicate the scope of networking that HCPs gain from in-person meetings. It’s therefore not surprising to see that 2 in 3 HCPs have much higher demand for virtual events than pre-pandemic but only 1 in 4 have lower demand for in-person attendance.

With respect to virtual scientific meetings and events, one clinician said “Easier, cheaper, can be done from the comfort of your home whenever you have time as the content is usually available to download for 3 months.”

Another added “I can learn so many things from home without wasting much time for travelling. The only necessary thing is internet connection.”

Customer experience is important to keep HCPs engaged. One HCP noted “I like the personal interaction with colleagues, it stimulates more debate.”

Another said “I just think virtually you are just listening, whereas in person when questions are answered it opens up the discussion more.”

Most pharma respondents (2 in 3) expect greater budget increases for hybrid meetings in 2022 and a significant proportion expect a reduction in budget for in-person events. Most (>60%) have, in fact, developed new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for virtual events.

According to pharma companies, the top benefits of virtual/hybrid meetings compared to in-person meetings include a wider geographic reach and savings on costs and resources. Interestingly, when considering the negatives of virtual meetings, respondents felt that there was a lack of participation from HCPs, challenges in measuring engagement and outcomes, and increased volume and choice causing saturation and competitiveness in the meeting landscape.

There is more to learn about the hybrid model of meetings. The hybrid model must be optimised to address the pros and cons of in-person and remote access.

“We had way more participants than at a physical congress, but it was so hollow. There was no real discussion or engagement. The question is how do you try to capture some of the vibrancy of face-to-face congresses in a digital setting? One of the problems is that people get distracted and multi-task while attending online,” said a pharma respondent to the survey.

Another respondent added “It’s not going to be easy to get the right balance. Imagine facilitating a workshop with a mix of virtual and face to face. How do you maintain the same quality of experience for both and include people through those different mediums? That is something we have not truly experienced yet. There will be another round of learning when there are no restrictions on face to face and you can layer the virtual settings on top of that to see what works and what doesn’t work. Some events might be exclusively F2F with others given access virtually in plenary sessions. It will be a case of working out what works and what doesn’t.”

Decision makers will need focus on virtual and hybrid models of scientific meetings. These will need to be fluid, across time and function, and flex to evolving customer journeys and preferences to ensure a high level of value to HCPs as well as pharma companies.

The global study (including the APAC region) was delivered by Medthority in late 2021. Participants included more than 240+ HCPs across 30 specialties, 80+ pharma companies and 80+ service providers/vendors.

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