Independent medical education (IME) is a field in constant flux, but one of the biggest changes in recent years is the shift from live educational meetings to online educational formats. Because online learning offers increased convenience for learners and decreased costs for organizers, many are beginning to wonder if live meetings still have value in an increasingly online world. However, live meetings offer a number of benefits that cannot be found in other forms of education.
1. Networking Opportunities
A major benefit of live meetings over other forms of education is the opportunity for learners to interact with their peers and experts in their field. Live meetings offer physicians the opportunity to make valuable professional connections and discuss current practice and clinical challenges with other physicians who may have different knowledge, perspectives, and experience. The networking opportunities presented by live meetings can also be invaluable, allowing attendees to meet new colleagues and potential collaborators who may shape their career moving forward. Indeed, the networking opportunities provided by live meetings are continuously rated by attendees as one of the most valuable components of live meetings.
2. Potential Hands-On Experience
In some cases, live meetings can offer an element of practical experience that is not often found in other settings. This practical experience may come in many forms, from model patient cases and live discussion with patients and patient advocates to hands-on activities, demonstrations, and opportunities to practice clinical techniques. This experience is invaluable when introducing new techniques or products, which may be difficult to incorporate into clinical practice without practical guidance and the experience that comes from in-person learning.
3. Better Environment for Learning
While online education is highly convenient, many physicians report difficulty focusing on educational material and absorbing new infomation when surrounded by the usual distractions and interruptions of everyday life. Attending live meetings allows them to disengage from their normal routines and focus solely on education. This focus makes live meetings an ideal venue to introduce particularly challenging ideas and approaches. A change in setting can stimulate fresh thinking, and freedom from distraction can provide the needed mental clarity to absorb difficult concepts.
While online education continues to grow in popularity in the IME world, it will never truly replace live meetings. Supporting this idea, 83% of oncologists and hematologists polled in a recent survey of the prIME Oncology physician network rated international congresses and live meetings as the most useful way of staying updated on the latest advances in clinical care. As IME enters the digital age, it is important to provide access to a number of different educational opportunities, including both live and virtual, to suit the needs of the multitude of physician learners.