Major conferences and society meetings provide an annual platform for sharing the most recent, cutting edge developments in medical research. For a healthcare professional (HCP) who wishes to remain at the top of their field, attendance at medical conferences is practically a prerequisite. Unfortunately, the ability of many HCPs to attend major conferences is extremely limited. Limited by time, limited by distance, limited by cost. Even when HCPs are able to find the time and budget to attend major conferences, they are faced with the challenge that groundbreaking research and practice updates are presented at multiple conferences throughout the year, rather than just a single major society meeting. If an HCP wants to remain truly updated on every key study and all the most recent developments in their field, they would need to attend several meetings in a year, spread across the globe.
Virtual participation in conferences has more than doubled in the past decade, in part due to the challenge of attending conferences. In the May 2014 issue of Pharma Marketing News, it was predicted that virtual conference attendees will soon outnumber physical conference attendees. These virtual “attendees” access the content of the live meeting through social media updates, conversations with colleagues attending the event, and, most importantly educational conference coverage. Currently, almost half of practicing HCPs are digitally native, meaning they were educated during or after the widespread adoption the internet. These HCPs are not only technologically adept, but actively seek ways for technology to improve their lives. This is the primary audience for virtual conference coverage, and this population will only continue to grow as younger HCPs enter clinical practice.
Even when HCPs are able to attend conferences, conference coverage still serves as a valuable resource after the event. Because of the sheer size of most major medical conferences, it is impossible to attend every session of interest. Furthermore, conference presentations are typically very brief, often limited to 10 minutes or less. Data are often presented very quickly, meaning a momentary disturbance can cause an attendee to miss key information. Furthermore, the focus of the presentation is almost always on sharing as much data as possible in the limited time. While some conferences offer expert discussion sessions in which the data are examined carefully and placed into context within the larger treatment landscape, this is not always the case. In this way, conference coverage fills a key role even for HCPs who are able to attend a major conference. Curated, focused conference coverage can highlight the most important updates from a meeting, distill and emphasize the key points from complex studies, and allow thought leaders to discuss and apply the information into the clinical setting.
Because of the difficulties in traveling to major conferences and the growing reliance on sometimes inaccurate social media, conference coverage remains a vital part of a complete medical education strategy. For an HCP who wishes to remain on the cutting edge of medical research but cannot travel, conference coverage represents a happy alternative. It provides the rapid, up-to-the-minute coverage they desire while filtering out inaccuracies and replacing bias with expert opinion.