Networking - Pharmaceutical Executive


Physician demand for convenient ways to obtain CME credits is driving online-learning models—but not at the expense of live meetings.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Pri-Med's study showed a significant increase (47 percent versus 21 percent in 2003) in the number of respondents who cite the opportunity to network with peers as important decision making criterion for CME attendance. Physicians love the camaraderie at face-to-face meetings, both on a social and professional level, says Goodrich.

As director of CME at the University of Ottawa, and chair of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), Dr. Richard Handfield-Jones, MD, advises CME planners to provide a congenial environment where colleagues can compare therapeutic approaches and otherwise interact. "More and more, physicians are looking for smaller groups that enhance interaction, such as hand-on workshops and case presentations," Handfield-Jones says.

Location, location, location

In the wake of 9/11, increased government regulations, and public scrutiny, a looming question remains: Are physicians still willing to travel to CME meetings?

According to another study that looked at physicians' CME preferences, conducted by Physicians Travel & Meeting Guide (PT&MG) magazine, the vast majority (98 percent) of meetings attended in 2003 were domestic; only two percent of respondents attended international meetings.

Despite the popularity of live meetings, the majority of physicians prefer to stay close to home. "Travel is not what it used to be," Montague says, adding that new government regulations and standards have changed the meeting practices for physicians. "Meetings in resorts have been hindered, and like everyone, physicians are faced with time constraints; they generally prefer to drive to meetings rather than hassle with airline travel," he says.

Pri-Med's Lotvin agrees. "9/11 has changed the way people travel in general and we are all giving a lot more thought to discretionary travel," he says. Pri-Med's goal is to bring high quality smaller regional meetings to physicians. As a former cardiologist, Lotvin understands that busy physicians are often reluctant to travel and take days away from their families and practices to attend distant meetings. Indeed, length of time away is a major determinate for 91 percent of respondents to Pri-Med's study.

In addition, the study reports that 51 percent of physicians—particularly solo practitioners—prefer local (within 50 miles) or regional (within 200 miles) meetings to traveling to national events.

The study also concludes that the majority (61 percent) of physicians prefer to attend meetings and conferences in the evenings or on the weekends rather than during the weekday. Whether a physician is part of large group practice or a solo practitioner, few have the luxury of taking time off to travel for multi-day events.

Due to the familial or professional constraints of most physicians, desirability of venue is not top of mind when making decisions to attend a CME meeting. Of the 15 decision-making factors in the Pri-Med study, none addressed the importance of venue; high-quality education, top speakers, topic relevance, and convenience of location are top drivers. "Destinations are not the draw," Lotvin says.

However, when asked to rate the importance of seven factors in their decision to attend CME meetings that require travel, more than four in five of PT&MG respondents (86 percent) who attend CME meetings that require travel indicated location as the most important factor.

"As much effort as we make to keep up-to-date and get the best speakers, we all know that the major deciding point is still venue," says Chris Pentz, president of Pentz Group Communications.

But the question of location remains highly subjective. Close proximity may be an important factor for one physician whereas an opportunity for a mini vacation with the family may attract another. This is where it gets tricky, says PMPN's Montague. "Since companies are no longer paying for accompanying spouses and families, it's a balancing act for planners to meet the needs of their clients," he says.


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