At TTA, we’re constantly gathering new insights to stay at the forefront of the evolving healthcare landscape. It’s how we help our clients approach events in new ways, adopt digital channels, coordinate effectively across teams, and establish a unified foundation for HCP engagement. I attended the recent Healthcare Events Forum in Malmö, which brought together representatives of agencies, specialist suppliers and influential speakers for an exploration of emerging trends in healthcare events. I thought I’d share some of the key takeaways, along with my own reflections.
By 2020, millennials are set to make up 35% of the global workforce, and healthcare is no exception. With the oldest of this generation now in their mid-thirties, the profession is becoming more tech-savvy, and medical professionals who grew up in a digital world are pushing for change in the way information is gathered and disseminated.
Healthcare is a profession that relies on continuous medical education, and for younger doctors, the traditional ‘snapshot’ of the annual or bi-annual congress is losing its relevance. This generation is digitally native, entrepreneurial, collaborative and iterative. Modern healthcare professionals expect greater interactivity, and are increasingly setting up their own forums and chat groups using platforms like Whatsapp to satisfy their appetite for more immediate ways to exchange information.
As the web, social media and mobility have become part of the scenery, the healthcare industry is looking for new models of engagement. The growing sophistication of virtual conferencing technologies is enabling younger specialists, disinclined to travel, to embrace live and recorded online events, particularly where the option is available to view content on demand.
However, just as Skype consultations aren’t a substitute for every GP appointment, virtual meetings won’t replace in-person events, which remain the “gold standard” of communication and critical to ensuring product adoption and improving patient outcomes. The number of face-to-face events isn’t declining, but virtual events are proliferating, enabling HCPs to attend at their convenience.
We’re seeing the emergence of multi-channel events, to help specialists stay up to date with new developments – for example, the use of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) at live events to create an immersive educational environment. As artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing become more pervasive, we can expect to see these technologies used to target content at conference influencers, and to answer questions and enable interactions, freeing up humans to focus on event content and organisation.
Patient groups are becoming increasingly empowered and informed, and expect to be included in the conversation around diseases and their treatments. Nowadays, there is an abundance of information in the public domain, and consumers are increasingly turning to the internet, social media and mobile apps for a diagnosis or to inform themselves about health issues. To maintain relevance and authority – and counter misinformation – the healthcare industry needs to meet consumers where they hang out: in the social media space. The challenge for these organisations will be to establish a robust strategy to maximise the effectiveness of official healthcare social media accounts without venturing into a compliance minefield or being seen to be actively promoting products.
Healthcare companies are having to adapt to a landscape where the majority of HCPs are digital natives. Creating a hybrid of physical and virtual events will be key to broadening reach while focusing resources on creating a meaningful exchange at face-to-face events. This means organisations can no longer regard events as an adjunct to multichannel, but must instead make them an integral and optimised part of their engagement strategy.
One challenge for busy HCPs is to identify the events that will be most beneficial to attend, and will justify time away from their surgery or hospital. With social media offering unlimited possibilities to connect and interact, professional networking opportunities are no longer the draw they once were. Five-day global congresses with 20,000 delegates are now competing for registrations with smaller, shorter, regional or national events with a more defined focus. This is putting increased pressure on medical societies and primary congress organisers to ensure their events (and associated content) are relevant, competitive and fit for purpose, to maintain their reputation for being worthwhile.
All this puts Return on Objectives in the spotlight, as a means of measuring the value created through events. While Return on Investment is a purely financial metric, ROO is a measure of the quality of outcomes. We always ask clients about their objectives at the outset, as no business should be spending finite resources on holding meetings for the sake of meetings. Nowhere is this more pertinent than in healthcare, where budgetary management and accountability are key.