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The digital future of medical conferences

A mobile phone unexpectedly becomes equally necessary as a stethoscope in a doctor’s professional life. Attending a pharma conference does not require a physical presence anymore. Artificial intelligence lends a helping hand during a conference if you choose to attend one in person. Is it the time to say farewell to traditional methods of conducting medical conferences?

Medical conferences and events play an important part in the pharma industry. Practitioners treat them as a primary source of expanding their medical knowledge. [source] They get the latest medical news and learn how to help their patients efficiently. They have the possibility of networking and exchanging valuable professional experience. Advantages are apparent, and so are disadvantages. In a hectic life of a practitioner, a conference means taking some absences from work, time-consuming trips, incurring additional expenses and some unpredictable factors which need to be considered such as, e.g., illness. Looking at conferences from the perspective of an organizer, they are a must in the highly competitive pharma business. They are also quite demanding in terms of content, compliance and toughening legislation. [source] Organizing a conference can mean continuous challenges: to find an exceptional place, to secure KOLs (key opinion leaders) and to assemble an appropriate number of returning and new participants. It means providing outstanding lectures, meaningful interaction and some entertainment afterward. All of the above within a certain budget. All the above to make it up-to-date and memorable experience.

The conferencing business quickly embraces technology. Acc. to Market Research Media, the overall virtual event market is predicted to grow from $14 billion in 2018 to $18 billion in 2023. [source] It further assumes that traditional conferences and trade shows will gradually move towards virtual events, either to be completely replaced by them or will create a hybrid combining elements of a traditional event and a virtual one. [source] American Express’ Global Meetings and Events Forecast presents some main trends within the conferencing business which turn technology to the unique customer experience. [source]  One of them is the use of augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). Both become more and more affordable these days. The idea behind is to share the experience among the participants during the conference. In 2017 alone, 42% of examined companies used augmented reality during conferences and corporate events and 39% were using virtual reality, with further plans of usage at the level over 85% among the examined companies in 2018. Both technologies can sound even more alluring when thinking of 3D live-streaming during conferences. Artificial intelligence (AI) is another big tech thing to be further used during conferences. 42% of examined companies claim to use AI during conferences. AI can take the form of chatbots answering the participant’s simple questions or become a part of a conference mobile application which will further help in, e.g., networking. [source] Furthermore, event apps gain on massive popularity, with 91% of event planners seeing a return on investment from event apps. [source] Event apps allow for embracing augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technologies, networking and many more. Last but not least, for an up-to-date conference, one cannot imagine buying a ticket or registration without social networking websites, combining the social aspects of human life with professional ones.

The situation in the pharma conferencing industry, which constitutes the biggest part of the education sector, is hardly different. [source] In the report “The Future of  Medical Conferences” (FirstWord Perspectives Report) one can see that 86% of doctors use a smartphone for work and 53% use a tablet for work. There is a growing number of digital-natives and millennials who favor a 24/7, on-demand training to traditional conferences. [source] The report states that doctors were asked to assess in 2016 their physical and virtual attendance during conferences in 2021. Generally, respondents declared participation in person in a smaller number of conferences. [source] When asked about the impact of online interactive medical conferences on their ability to access knowledge, over 54% saw a positive impact. [source] The main drivers for attending a virtual conference were: comfort to access the conference anytime (acc. to 32% of respondents) and progress in technology (28%). [source]

Highp conferencing comes as the answer to the growing demand for digitalization in the field of the pharma conferencing.  This is one of the services available within the Highp tool, other being: follow-ups, video messaging, audio messages, education programs, and promotion campaigns. Highp as a tool is easy to use and does not require a user to be tech-savvy. No app installation is needed. Designed to be as intuitive as the use of a smartphone, the messages are sent as SMS but opens in a rich feature format (audio, video or presentation) supplying information and education straight to a doctor´s mobile.

Highp conferencing helps cascade global trends into the local practitioner’s environment. It acts as a newsroom, so a practitioner does not need to wait for updates published in pharma magazines. The messages from the conference can be simply seen or heard on the go. They are usually quite short: 2-3 minutes long so they can be easily squeezed into a practitioner’s agenda with a possibility to request more detailed information. Highp holds communication with a non-physically attending doctor the same way as it does do with attendees. One can find there a pre-congress phase which builds the excitement, a core conference, i.e., supplying the daily highlights from the conference, and finally, a wrap-up stage (with a survey and a key message recall). The conferencing functionality in Highp has been successfully tested several times, to mention some recent conferences as ASCO (the American Society of Clinical Oncology), EBCC (the European Breast Cancer Conference) or ECTRIMS (the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis).

The advantages of using Highp are numerous. A pharma company can attract the group of practitioners who otherwise would not be able to attend. Both for the company and for the practitioner the cost of virtual attending is lower than participation in person. Practitioners have hands on latest knowledge immediately just via a smartphone, which everybody has.

It seems that further progress in digitalization of pharma conferences is inevitable. The quicker one adopts efficient tools, the bigger benefits one obtains. With Highp tool lagging behind is not an option. On the contrary, it means getting a competitive advantage over other pharma players.

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