Health-Care Workers Split on Attending Digital and In-Person Conferences

A recent LinkedIn poll revealed that the majority of medical professionals are comfortable attending conferences this fall, even with the surge in COVID cases due to the Delta variant — but only with safety requirements in place.

Author: Michelle Russell       

medical meeting

A LinkedIn post asked healthcare professionals if they feel safe traveling to in-person conferences in the fall.

Physicians need to complete a certain number of continuing medical education hours each year, and that drives a lot of conferences. But do you feel safe traveling again?

That was the question LinkedIn News Managing Editor Beth Kutscher posed the third week of August to health-care workers. She wrote:

In the tech world, some larger conferences (like CES) are coming back in person, sometimes with vaccine requirements for attendees, while smaller meetings are still opting to stay virtual. Healthcare too has seen some larger meetings, like HIMSS, return to Vegas; the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is also still planning to hold its conference later this month in San Diego. And the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), one of the largest medical meetings of the year, is scheduled to be in Chicago in November.

Other specialties, however, like the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Cardiology, opted for virtual meetings.

I admit that I enjoyed going to conferences prior to COVID; it’s hard to replicate the networking aspect in a virtual world. Plus, there’s something to be said about taking time away from the office to invest in yourself.

If you work in health care, tell me what you’re planning to do.

Less than one-third of 745 respondents said they would not feel comfortable attending a conference in person.


“While the in-person conference won’t ever go away completely,” Diane Bartoli, the VP and GM at epocrates, an app for physicians, posted, the company’s internal research showed that even after restrictions are lifted, more than half of physicians are still likely to participate in virtual medical conferences. “It’s part of a larger trend that the pandemic simply accelerated —the industry’s transition to digital CME, particularly digital CME that can be accessed via mobile,” she said.

“As clinicians face growing administrative burdens, staffing shortages, and an aging population, the need for short form or ‘snackable’ content that can be accessed whenever they have time is growing. We observe through our own CME channel,” she shared, “that Saturday is actually the most popular day for clinicians to access CME content. As clinicians continue to take control of when and how they consume medical information, convenience is key to their experience, which is tough for in-person conferences to deliver.”

A physician posting on this LinkedIn thread pointed out that doctors have been able to get CMEs via Zoom conferences last year and the first eight months of this year. “I am fully vaccinated but there are enough physicians and nurses who have also refused to take the vaccines and it is tough to know their status if the meetings are only requiring masks,” he wrote. “In addition, there is the issue of boosters that suggest that immunity is not lasting beyond eight to nine months. Finally, many medical/nursing professionals have also fallen to COVID-19.”

And a MPH (Master in Public Health) student injected a note of caution into the conversation: “Indoor spaces with large crowds for long periods of time facilitate the spread of COVID19,” she wrote, “even when attendees are health professionals.”

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

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