As time constraints and opportunities for remote learning increase, society is experiencing a shift from the conventional, formal learning experience to a virtual, personal learning experience. This trend is especially noticeable among Health Care Professionals (HCPs).
As for anyone seeking to advance their education, an important incentive for HCPs is high return on objectives: their time investment in an educational opportunity must be worth the learning benefits they receive from it.
A recent HCP survey by Ashfield has revealed that the obstacles HCPs may face in attending live meetings can result in a high-value experience becoming especially challenging. Challenges include cross-border activity, industry codes of practice and other compliance issues brought on by an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment. The most frequently cited challenges are difficulty managing workload during time away from their practice, high cost and extensive travel time or distance required.
A number of these challenges can be removed using digital technologies that create virtual medical meetings, enabling doctors to keep up to date with the latest advances in medicine without leaving their practices.
The task of compiling meeting materials and the need to use multiple sources of information can be largely eliminated by these well-crafted digital event platforms - discussion forums facilitate networking online and live streaming of presentations minimises arduous travel requirements.
It could be argued that these activities can evolve further by decentralising and distributing entire events, with portions of the agenda in different places and at different times or by moving parts of the agenda around so they take place in a series of locations successively.
Reinterpreting traditional meeting formats in this manner would certainly seem to resonate with the survey's findings; the overwhelming vision of the future from HCPs was that meetings in 10 years' time will be largely virtual and interactive.
Virtual medical meetings enable doctors to keep up to date without having to leave their practices
But what is the current meetings landscape?
It is clear the landscape is evolving rapidly. But it is just as clear that there is still a large percentage of HCPs that place significant importance on attending face-to-face events - with a high percentage placing it as their first or second educational channel preference.
The research found that 85% of HCPs had attended a medical society congress in the last 12 months compared to 49% who had attended a virtual meeting. This indicates that while there is a growing demand for virtual meetings HCPs still value the opportunity for face-to-face interaction.
Key factors when deciding whether to attend a particular meeting include: finding out about the latest scientific content for their disease area (85%); meeting with global or local experts or thought leaders (76%); hearing about the latest products in development for their disease area (74%); and networking with colleagues/other disease specialists (72%).
With this in mind we need to stop talking about HCPs as 'virtual' or 'physical' attendees, and instead look at them as consumers seeking continuous medical education. Content should be provided in the most efficient way feasible via the most useful channel for each attendee - to make it an efficient learning experience geared to each HCP's unique learning preferences.
Creating this personalised learning experience is one of the most reliable ways to ensure your meeting delivers a sought-after, high-value experience. Another tactic that can help accomplish this is to give HCPs the opportunity to provide input into the agenda so that it is relevant and significant to them.
Our findings indicate that to ensure an impactful, personalised experience for delegates, the most effective approaches must leverage available technology to provide a seamless end-to-end experience. The future of meetings is undoubtedly being driven by digital technology that provides a presentational flexibility, limited only by imagination, that delivers ever-more impactful events centred on a clear understanding of HCP needs.