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6 Things HCPs Want Life-Science Event Planners to Know

At Pharma Forum 2024, a panel of physicians detailed their likes and preferences around elements of meetings hosted by life-science companies.

Each year at Pharma Forum—which brings together nearly 300 planners from pharmaceutical and medical-device companies—the healthcare professionals’ panel discussion is a session that attendees really look forward to.

And this year’s edition did not disappoint, as three practitioners with experience in clinical trials, investigator meetings, advisory boards, and other events presented their thoughts and perspectives on various aspects of those meetings.

Here are the most interesting takeaways for life-science planners as they try to persuade physicians to attend their events, and then work to deliver an experience that both satisfies participants and achieves their firm’s objectives.

• Plan well in advance: Given that recent HCP surveys show that practitioners receive, on average, 28 meeting invitations per year and accept only eight, “the invitation for a meeting must come to us more than just a couple of months out,” said Sarah Sagorsky, a physician assistant in oncology for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. “We are planning our clinical schedules at least three months in advance.”

• Don’t muddy the schedule: When it comes to advisory-board gatherings, Sagorsky noted that it’s not the best idea for firms to hold them alongside large medical congresses. “There’s just too much going on that week, and we also end up with the possibility of having ad boards scheduled by competing firms.”

• Know the next-gen preferences: Alex Taylor, a physician assistant in orthopedic surgery for OrthoIndy in Indianapolis, said that “younger HCPs are digital natives, so we communicate differently with each other and with patients than many of our older colleagues do. For instance, the electronic heath records system now has direct-messaging capabilities between doctors; we’re using that constantly.”

That new day-to-day environment, however, is precisely what makes in-person meetings compelling to younger practitioners, says Taylor. “Content that’s specific to my work is a top factor for me attending, and hands-on experience with products as well as cadaver demos are great for surgeons, plus group discussions about our likes and dislikes of product features.”

• Take the pulse of attendees: Understanding peer sentiment is equally important to HCPs during other parts of a meeting, too. As a result, “electronic polling and other audience participation is really good,” said Sarah Sagorsky. “It’s a quick and easy way for us to hear from each other, and it’s really informative,”

In fact, “doing brief polls and surveys ahead of a meeting to guide the content would definitely improve the in-person experience,” added Alex Taylor.

• Yes, location matters: While relevant content and peer-sharing opportunities are top factors for HCPs when they choose which meetings to attend, location matters too. For instance, “investigator meetings in Europe are quite tempting,” said Dr. Han Phan, a pediatric neurologist and director of research/principal investigator for the Rare Disease Research Institute in Atlanta. “It’s an opportunity to add a couple of days on the back end.”

Use in-person time wisely: Phan also noted that planners should make better use of HCPs’ in-person presence. “Investigator meetings often get bogged down in details that we can read about at another time. It’s best to break us into small groups so we can learn things from each other that’s beyond the protocol.”

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