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18.06.2020 | Insight

#WhatHCPsThink About Virtual Congress

By CREATION.co

This post was first published as part of our ongoing #WhatHCPsThink series on pharmaphorum.com.

With most of the world being in lockdown we are all looking for new ways to continue to lead our lives as normally as possible. From personal zoom quiz nights with family to gathering market research at work from sources that don’t require personal contact. For healthcare professions (HCPs) we, at CREATION, have seen how they are adapting their day-to-day as well as larger activities, to continue to support patients and engage with peers during the COVID pandemic. Many of the tools for HCPs to adapt have already been available, but we have seen increasing use of video consultations and social media to ask their global peers questions.

As we start the season of medical congresses, many organisations have now chosen to either cancel or continue their meeting virtually. Medical congress meetings draw thousands of attendees from around the world and are a great opportunity where pharmaceutical companies and HCPs alike can interact in-person. Traditionally during these times we have also seen an increase in social media activity by HCPs engaging with their global peers, sharing content and highlights from the congress. With this change in format, what do HCPs think about virtual congress?

HCPs show excitement for virtual congress but in-person contact missed

CREATION has been tracking the conversations about virtual congresses since February this year with close to 14,000 posts in English language from over 8,000 HCPs globally. There was a significant increase in the conversation from the 6th of March 2020, with HCPs anticipating live meetings to be moved to virtual meetings.

HCP online conversation about virtual congress

Many HCPs have expressed their excitement about virtual meetings from medical organisations. Mohamed Salem, a gastroenterology oncologist acknowledged the effort that the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is putting in for COVID-19 as well as looking forward to their virtual scientific program.

https://twitter.com/SalemGIOncDoc/status/1255804766342569986

HCPs were highly positive toward virtual congress, sharing news of congresses going virtual, the benefits of having virtual meetings and still having access to the much needed updates in their therapy areas.

HCP sentiment to virtual congress meetings

Many HCPs shared their excitement of the launch of virtual congress and were actively sharing the news to their peers as congress after congress was made virtual.

https://twitter.com/drmt/status/1235969905863913479

Off the back of this news, HCPs were sharing the benefits of having virtual meetings, with them being more accessible for people to participate, less expense for travelling and also saving time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-VGxUejwcf/?igshid=c97drlxhuh56

However following congress we have seen HCPs expressing some of what they miss from in-person meetings. For many HCPs this is a key time to interact with peers and network. Following the congress of the American Association for Cancer research (AACR) on April 27 – 28th 2020, Charu Aggarwal, a medical oncologist shared how much she missed the atmosphere of in-person congresses and connecting with her friends and colleagues. A sentiment which was shared by many HCPs.

https://twitter.com/CharuAggarwalMD/status/1254881732676861952

The overall sentiment from HCPs during and after AACR this year was highly positive despite some of the challenges they faced with technology. HCPs thanked AACR for bringing HCPs together and continuing to provide data and updates in progress in the oncology field.

https://twitter.com/cancerassassin1/status/1255579139895164940

HCPs continue to make the most of congress with live updates and virtual engagement with peers

Despite the congress changing to a virtual format, the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) world congress was well engaged with by HCPs online this year with close to 6,000 English language posts from just over 2,600 HCPs globally. Interestingly, compared to our analysis of the online conversations of HCPs at ACC in 2019, there were 9,000 fewer posts in 2020, with around 200 HCPs fewer contributing to the conversation.

When comparing the HCP authors who had been posting in each year, there were just under 800 HCPs who posted about both meetings, and a significant number who posted about one, but not the other.

HCPs posting at live and virtual medical congress meetings

Typically during congress we see a number of digital behaviours exhibited by HCPs online. This includes the use of congress specific hashtags to share highlights, posting images of data from sessions, sharing photos of the colleagues and friends they meet and engagement with pharma content.

As many HCPs join the online space, congress specific hashtags during this time are especially important for HCPs to quickly get to the content they are interested in. One nephrologist, Tejas Desai, shared a post linking to a regularly updated archive containing all the tweets from ACC20.

https://twitter.com/nephondemand/status/1244943362123280387

HCPs continued to share images of the data presented during sessions, receiving large engagement from peers in the comments of their posts, discussing the findings as they may have done in person. More than 60% of the posts shared during ACC included an image.

https://twitter.com/GilbertTangMD/status/1244269425265688577

Interestingly, instead of sharing photos of who HCPs have met up with during congress HCPs were instead showing their home set up for the congress or of their pets. Still providing an insight into not only the professional but also the personal side of congresses.

https://twitter.com/DrMarthaGulati/status/1243718006586236928

A common activity at congress are TweetUps, which give an opportunity for HCPs who are connected and engage with each other online to meet in-person, take selfies, share these online and engage in Twitter trivia. With ACC20 having been made virtual, HCPs still took to the online space to meet using Zoom.

https://twitter.com/DrMarthaGulati/status/1244354937770758144

Another interesting behaviour seen more prominently this year was HCPs taking on the task of officially sharing content for specific hashtags. Lina Ya’qoub, an interventional cardiologist, notified her peers that she would be posting updates from the virtual ACC20. This positioned  her as a go-to and easily accessible source for content during the congress.

https://twitter.com/yaqoub_lina/status/1243212709010780166

ACC advocacy, an ACC account focusing on health policy news, took this opportunity to engage with HCPs using common HCP digital behaviours, such as Twitter chats to engage with HCPs and create a sense of community with the virtual congress. HCPs called their peers to engage in these sessions and connect with each other.

https://twitter.com/Cardiology/status/1242583267016085510

Opportunities abound to support and engage HCPs during congress 

With the first major virtual congresses of this year receiving such positive feedback and large engagement with physicians, congress still remains a key opportunity for organisations and pharmaceutical companies to engage with HCPs. Even more so, now online. In this article we’ve seen that HCPs are still finding virtual congress useful to share new developments in their therapy area and engage with peers on a professional and personal level. For those interactions that they miss with in-person congress meetings, HCPs are exhibiting new digital behaviours to compensate for this including longer discussions on peers’ posts and video calls to connect socially.

There are two key opportunities presented. The first, to engage with digital opinion leaders in your therapy area to facilitate collaboration with other HCPs online in Twitter chats, data sessions and sharing highlights of new releases. Secondly, as HCPs are increasingly having their offline conversations online, specific insights on their views and opinions of your data are more than ever available to gather.

During this interesting time in the history of the world we are seeing new opportunities in the digital space to support and engage HCPs, providing hope for the ongoing work of the healthcare industry.

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