Doctors Want Nearby, No-Nonsense Meetings

Ashfield Meetings & Events survey finds low tolerance for travel, desire for interactive education

Doctors still want to attend meetings and events aimed at improving their professional skills, but they want them closer to home, more tightly focused on education, and more opportunities to interact with experts rather than be lectured at. 

Those are some of the results of "The Science of Healthcare Professional Meetings," released on Feb 26 by Ashfield Meetings & Events. The survey of healthcare professionals is a follow-up to its "Future of Meetings" research paper, released in 2016. 

More than 85 percent of the health care providers (HCPs) surveyed said they attend local meetings, only slightly more than those who attend national meetings and continuing medical education meetings. Sixty percent are willing to travel to international meetings and conventions, and nearly 40 percent have viewed a virtual meeting streamed to their desktop.

"It is evident that meeting face-to-face is still highly valued in the digital age," says Gavin Houston, CEO Americas of Ashfield Meetings & Events. "What also comes across though, is that HCPs attend meetings that offer a real return for the time and money they have invested. Further education which ultimately leads to improving patient care is very clearly at the forefront of their attendance decisions, making the quality and delivery of the content a vital element of an event's success."

There are a number of barriers to attending meetings cited, among them government regulation, which was cited by 54 percent of the respondents, roughly that same as in 2016. 

But the biggest barrier was taking time away from their practices and managing workload, cited by 74 percent of the HCPs surveyed.


Fast, Focused, and Local


That desire to stay close to their patients is reflected in the relatively short period -- just over two days -- that doctors and other HCPs consider the ideal length of a meeting. Including travel time, they want to spend no more than 3.2 days, on average, at meetings. That includes a maximum travel time of 4.7 hours, down substantially from 2016, when the number was 6.8 hours.

This is also reflected in the fact that 57 percent of the respondents said that meetings should spend less time on non-educational activities. 

Nearly three-quarters of the HCPs surveyed said they attend meetings to network with colleagues and other specialists, and 68 percent go to meet global experts or key opinion leaders. 

"What can be deducted from this is that HCPs are time restricted and looking for maximum impact with minimum time spent," the report says. The amount of time that HCPs prefer to spend at a meeting has remained comparable [to 2016), but acceptable travel time and time away from the office are significantly decreasing."

This suggests "an industry need to make meetings more accessible in the form of localized, regional meetings," the report concludes. 

Another highlight of the report is that HCPs are less and less willing to be lectured at. Nearly half of all HCPs surveyed believe meetings lack sufficient time for discussion and debate, while 76 percent say more workshops and interactive sessions would increase the educational value of meetings. And 74 percent want more opportunities to interact with key opinion leaders.

Other factors covered in the survey include the desire for virtual technology and online content, creating engaging educational experiences, and the types of meetings attended. The full report can be viewed here.