As physicians adjust to the new era of patient care, medical associations are grappling with a new set of challenges to attract, engage and educate healthcare professionals. Uniting communities of medical professionals in-person remains a top objective, but the hurdles in front of face-to-face conference participation are growing taller for many physicians.
In the US, prospective medical meeting attendees are overwhelmed with patients. The 2014 Survey of America’s Physicians revealed that 81 percent of doctors are over-extended or at full capacity without any room to see more patients. If they are unable to make more room for patients, how will they manage to find time to spend three or four days away from their practices in a convention center?
Internationally, there is no shortage of issues, either. Many US-based medical meeting organizers are making strides in marketing to global attendees, but a new European disclosure code is raising concerns across the pond.
“Some of our attendance is remaining flat, especially since international attendance may be declining because of the pharma rules moving more and more to Europe where sponsors aren’t paying for attendees to travel,” Janet Skorepa, Associate Executive Director, American Urological Association, said in a forum for medical meeting planners at Convening Leaders 2015.
There are potential sponsorship dollars for attendees in developing markets in Latin America and South America, but securing a visa and sorting through paperwork can be turn-offs for first-time attendees.
The good news? Hybrid event technology makes establishing the first point of engagement with attendees easier than ever. Rather than spending large amounts of marketing dollars on efforts to motivate physicians to register for a conference, forward-thinking medical associations are giving this audience a much easier decision to make: log on and learn from home.
“There are people that just can’t physically be at your event, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play some kind of role in your community,” Donny Neufuss, Director, Global Accounts, Production Resource Group, said.
Choosing The Right Content
Before introducing them to that community, Patricia Andrade, Vice President, Marketing, ABTS Convention Services, recommends conducting research to determine which courses will be the biggest draw
“You can start by simply offering teaser video campaigns as introduction to topics of interest in the annual meeting, including information about the meeting schedule, etc. and building into full-fledged online and hybrid meeting offerings,” Andrade said. “We usually conduct a needs assessment to determine which of the annual meeting topics are most relevant to your international attendees. Then, we partner with international KOLs and international and regional medical associations to carry the message forward most effectively for each target market.”
“When building online courses or hybrid meetings, making sure that the topics are relevant and accessible is of paramount importance,” Andrade added. “This markets your meeting and your association at an international level with a very minimal cost.”
Feeling The Big Payoff
Remote medical professionals aren’t the only ones enjoying the perks of remote learning, though. Neufuss highlights that medical organizations are building their brands, increasing revenues and expanding their reaches to new sections of the world.
“These medical associations that live stream meetings or provide OnDemand content generate a tremendous amount of revenue,” Neufuss said. “Whether it’s on the front end of selling the sessions or the back end of recruiting new members from the service, virtual content is creating the financial opportunities these organizations need.”
In addition to helping reach new audience members, hybrid meetings and virtual content are playing a crucial role in increasing satisfaction among existing face-to-face attendees, too. At the Radiological Society of North America, the majority of F2F attendees cannot stay for the entire on-site experience.
“Most medical professionals cannot stay for the whole meeting,” Steve Drew, Assistant Executive Director, RSNA, said a recent interview. “Their schedules don’t allow for it. The virtual meeting gives them the flexibility to come for a few days and then continue earning education credits at home pre and/or post meeting.”
Making More Than Money
While budgets and bottom lines guide decision-making among any business, it’s important to remember that medical meetings are intended to do more than make money. They’re also meant to make a difference.
The Society for Worldwide Medical Exchange embraces that difference-making mission in its efforts to “break down the physical and financial barriers to quality education.” From affordable regional programs in Latin America offered in Spanish and Portuguese to programs that unite Middle Eastern experts on cardiovascular disease, SWME leverages new technologies to deliver critical education to healthcare professionals around the globe.
“These online courses allow us to reach a larger number of physicians in geographically significant areas while offering interested doctors the tools and knowledge to improve their medical practices,” Hans Schenk, Executive Director, SWME, said.
In 2015, Schenk and SWME plan to add courses in diabetes, antimicrobial tesistance, and pediatric infections for the Latin American market. There are additional courses for Asia and the Middle East on the horizon, too.
“Missing medical knowledge can be deadly,” Schenk said. “The ability to bring top-of-the-line medical education to doctors worldwide saves lives.”
This educational article was brought to you by ABTS Convention Services. With over 20 years of experience delivering global internationally-focused sales and integrated marketing strategy solutions, negotiating internationally-friendly group housing and providing on-site expertise to manage your international groups, ABTS is recognized as one of the leaders in medical association management. If you need help moving your medical association forward in today’s global meetings market or would like help managing and growing your international attendance, click here to get in touch with ABTS.