At early September’s IMEX America show in Las Vegas, more than two dozen medical association event planners who attended a session titled “Trends and Disruptors Impacting Healthcare and Medical Meetings” heard about the amazing progress being made in the realm of medical technology, particularly in artificial intelligence. But the session presenter—Dr. Hamed Abbaszadegan, program director of clinical informatics at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine—used all the examples of "machine learning" he presented to assure attendees that this rapidly advancing technology will not replace humans in the delivery of care—and, in fact, those humans will consistently need to attend face-to-face events to learn how to leverage the new technology for patient benefit.
Abbaszadegan gave a stark example early in his presentation: "Surveys show that radiologists worry the most about losing their jobs to machines, because machines can absorb millions of scans and learn predictive patterns from them," he noted. However, "one critical thing machines cannot do is detect behavioral subtleties in patients that sometimes lead a radiologist to adjust a patient's body slightly to achieve a more effective scan." And once a scan is completed and studied for patterns to arrive at a diagnosis, an HCP must have readily available the right supplemental patient data from other tests (and often from the patient herself) at the right moment in order to deliver personalized care. That data, however, should first be evaluated for its relevance by the HCP's support staff, so that an HCP can weigh each data figure's importance and make treatment decisions within the short time an HCP focuses on a particular patient.
A New Paradigm: Doctors as "Chief Wellness Officers"
Based on the example he presented, Abbaszadegan stressed that HCPs should be trained by their companies and their medical societies to be the "chief wellness officers" within their practices. This means that HCPs must have executive-level proficiency for interacting with patients and their families (who are often misinformed by Internet searches), as well as for interacting with their own support staff and fellow HCPs. Where does such interpersonal skill development come from? Small-group educational sessions and role-playing exercises, not online learning modules or conference livestreams.
What's more, the algorithms that hotels use to anticipate future demand for their guest rooms and meeting space are being adapted by the medical field for their own business needs: Specifically, to provide patient-demand data patterns that help doctors right-size their office staff levels in an upcoming week or month. Because of this, HCPs must be able to communicate clearly with support staff and lay out the business case for office decisions; doing so will lead to greater employee retention and thus better service at lower cost. Again, the vehicle for this type of HCP learning is an in-person event rather than a tech-based remote session.
Lastly, to reinforce the idea that medical societies should be the source of a more well-rounded educational experience that HCPs need to succeed in a tech-heavy workplace, Abbaszadegan (pictured here) had an on-stage chat with Paul Pomerantz, CEO of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Pomerantz detailed how ASA’s annual meetings has added more instruction focused on leadership and interpersonal skills, and how that has improved attendee-satisfaction scores. He also noted that ASA's leadership committee now encourages exhibitors to provide education in their show booths not just on their technological products, but also on how HCPs can use each product in a way that fits their particular clinical environment.
Such instruction is an essential supplement to the traditional research and data that HCPs get at medical association events, and it will only become more necessary as medical technology advances.