Digital is changing the rules of scientific meetings

Scientific meetings play a big part in the professional lives of healthcare specialists. Touching on areas such as continuous medical education, information exchange or networking, scientific meetings are part of the instruments that can enable and support these important topics. Expectations and delivery methods of conferences are changing with the rise of the ‘Digital Era’. This can only mean new opportunities as well as challenges for the Pharma industry.

Attendance of physical conferences is still high…

One of the main reported benefits of attending a live event is the possibility to network and learn from other specialists. A conference is not only an educational journey, but also a good opportunity to consolidate professional relationships and create other useful contacts.

The number of physical attendees at conference is expected to remain constant for the next couple of years¹. Despite this fact, Pharma companies should not ignore the trends and should start to consolidate their capabilities to support virtual meetings.

… but virtual scientific meetings are slowly getting more traction

Barriers such as costs, travel efforts, prioritizing time with the patients and their families are starting to change the rules of the game and disrupt the traditional selling models. Virtual meetings might not offer healthcare professionals the opportunity to engage and discuss with their peers, but are convenient in terms of time, costs and access to post-event materials.

A study conducted by EPG Health uncovered that in in the last year, 40% of the doctors attended more online meetings than on-site ones.²

There is a clear gap between demand and supply

There are insufficient opportunities that allow doctors to access scientific meetings online. As a rule of thumb, a Pharma company organizes yearly between 20-30 types of events on average. These initiatives can include congresses, speaker programs, medical advisory boards, trainings etc. According to EPG Health, in the past 12 months, only 11% of the Pharma companies organized 3-5 interactive online events/webinars and 11%, 6 or more.²

There are many obstacles that prevent companies to move forward with organizing online scientific meetings. Starting with lack of support from senior management and insufficient budget to support the digital initiatives, lack of a clear strategy to create the right customer experience, and finishing with compliance barriers.²

Key considerations for Pharma companies

It’s all about the customer experience

Today’s physicians expect information to be available fast, easy, anywhere and anytime. But companies do not only have to focus on the “convenience” aspect, and also think about the content that they will provide and which tool they are going to use for that. The information from each touchpoint must be presented in a consistent and cohesive way in order for the companies to deliver  a coordinated multichannel experience. Physicians have access to hundreds of sources of information, so they will choose to use only the ones that can be deemed as trusted, have a clear and consistent message to deliver, and caters to their accessibility needs.

Stay on top of the trends

Companies should be aware of the challenges that physicians face with regards to attending live scientific meetings as well as challenges related to platform features when they are attending a virtual event. Features that physicians would like to see more, include the possibility of watching videos on demand, live streaming events, portals for post-event materials, as well as the social component that allows them to comment and share interesting event-related resources. A clear digital strategy as well as early involvement of the Compliance team in the projects can help gain a competitive advantage and reduce associated compliance hurdles.

 

Resources:

Veeva (December 2016) – The Future of Medical Conferences

PG Health (May 2017) – Scientific meetings in the digital age:  the what, where, when and how of HCP demand and pharmaceutical industry supply

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