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HCPs and Virtual Events: Report Reveals the Pros and Cons

More than 300 physicians detailed their participation in and feelings about online medical events between March and September 2020. A follow-up report is due in February.

Here’s some good news: Fully 45 percent of responding healthcare professionals said they registered for a medical congress in 2020 specifically because it was offered online and they would not have considered attending in person even absent a pandemic. This indicates that the potential reach of any medical event is far wider now than ever before, bringing with it positive financial ramifications for the event host, exhibitors, and sponsors.

The statistic comes from a recent report put out by Ashfield Meetings & Events and the International Pharmaceutical Congress Advisory Association. The topic: What healthcare professionals think about virtual medical congresses, given their widespread rollout since March as a workaround to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Through a survey of more than 300 physicians from six countries in North America and Europe and across 14 therapy areas, the report delivers insights designed to help medical societies, professional congress organizers, and pharma companies figure out how to develop or take part in virtual congresses going forward.

Martin Jensen, IPCAA’s immediate past president, says that “we wanted to find out what HCPs experience as virtual attendees, and to understand what components of a congress have made a positive—and potentially enduring—transition to virtual.”

The study reveals HCPs’ thoughts on technological accessibility, quality, and ease of use; how they took in online activities, such as industry symposia and poster sessions; their ability to connect with industry and peers; and more.

“The aim of our research was not to determine if virtual congresses will surpass physical as the preferred model for attendance, nor was it to expose the limitations of virtual with a view to it being simply a stop-gap solution during the pandemic,” notes Katie Koziol, CMP, director of client services for Ashfield. “The goal was to assess the end-to-end virtual congress experience from the perspective of the HCP—identifying which elements of a traditional in-person congress can be, or have already been, successfully replicated in a virtual setting.” Here is one interesting observation from the report:


A few other revealing figures from the report: 

  • Forty-eight percent of respondents would prefer to attend events in person, while 12 percent prefer to attend only through virtual means. However, 38 percent say their congress attendance will shift over time towards a balance of physical and virtual attendance. Here’s what could come from that last figure: A rise in medical congresses that take place over a period of weeks, partially in person and partially online with real-time sessions, rather than over several days when the in-person and virtual components happen simultaneously.
  • 46 percent of respondents say they miss the interaction with session presenters that happens during in-person events. This suggests that for virtual events, a live Q&A with the presenter should accompany all pre-recorded sessions that run during the event. Then the on-demand version of that session can also feature the recorded Q&A component for post-event viewing.
  • 64 percent of respondents say that registration fees for virtual events should not be more than 100 euros or $120 U.S.

The full Ashfield/IPCAA report can be found here.

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