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Pandemic Brings New Potential for Medical Meetings

Here's how the Covid-19 crisis has created new opportunities—and audiences—for medical and pharma educational events.

Think back to January 2020: Can you remember the overarching issues and the specific priorities that occupied your mind as you were building your medical-education programs for that year? The memory will probably make you shake your head and chuckle. 

Fast forward 12 months, and the Covid-19 pandemic is top of mind for everyone in the event-planning field and in the medical field—of course, at the intersection of those is where medical-event planners reside. And for 2021, their priorities are dictated by this fact: Not only have the channels for educating attendees changed, but so have the jobs of a large segment of the target audience in most medical disciplines. 

First, “we are going to end up five years beyond where we would have been if the pandemic had not taken hold,” according to one respondent to a recent survey by Fishawack Health, covered in more detail in this article from MM&M (formerly Medical Marketing & Media). Fred Bassett, head of consulting for Fishawack, noted that “the pandemic is changing every single care pathway in some way, whether it is the drugs and treatments administered or the way the patient is diagnosed and monitored.” Just one of the consequences for medical-event planners: the need to create virtual product launches rather than in-person ones and still make the desired impact, added Fishawack consultant Neha Thakur.

In addition, the higher-than-average attrition rate for physicians in the pandemic year has resulted in greater responsibilities for nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Since mid-2020, the 290,000 NPs and 160,000 PAs in the United States “have benefited from a broadened scope of practice, as many states have eased supervision requirements that had tethered them to doctors,” according to this article in MM&M

With that responsibility comes the need for more education on a regular basis, and some of the largest medical-communications agencies are already “strengthening their focus on ‘healthcare extenders’—the nurses, physician assistants, dieticians, pharmacists, and others who play crucial, if often underappreciated, roles in treatment plans,” according to this article in MM&M. “They have long been essential in the delivery of healthcare, but have become even more so in the time of Covid.”

Sandra Carey, global president, expert audiences, for McCann Health, added that “there are a lot of things falling through the cracks right now, so we need to have those healthcare extenders step in and operate at a higher level,” she said. “They’re all doing things they haven’t traditionally done, because the need is at hand. They are playing a pivotal role in healthcare delivery, conducting activities and interventions in disease prevention and health promotion.”

So, as difficult as 2020 was for the medical-meetings landscape, there are new topics and audiences to address, which will keep medical-event planners on their toes.

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