Medical Meetings May Be Forever Changed

By | April 1, 2020

What your doctor is reading on

MARCH 27, 2020 — As most 2020 medical conferences have, one by one, been canceled or rescheduled as virtual meetings in the time of a pandemic, some physicians and other healthcare professionals are wondering if this is the year that will change the scene forever.

Amid the choruses of resignation (“unfortunately, it’s the right thing to do”) and optimism (“see you next year!”), there have been plenty of voices describing another broad sentiment ― that all was not well with medical meetings even before the coronavirus.

One dominant criticism is that there are too many meetings.

Indeed, there are many, many meetings. From 2005–2015, there were 30,000-plus medical meetings in the United States, according to a report from the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association.

Most of those are of little value, tweeted Dhruv Khullar, MD, an internist at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City (@DhruvKhullar ): “One possible consequence of cancelling so many meetings due to #COVID19 is that we realize we probably don’t need most of them.”

The tweet was liked 1.9K times, which is high for a medical post. Comments were mostly in agreement, with some scepticism.

Michaela West, MD, PhD, a surgeon at North Memorial Health, Minneapolis, Minnesota, responded (@MichaelaWst): “Agree. COVID-19 may forever change our perspective regarding medical professional meetings.”

Nwando Olayiwola, MD, chair of family medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, strongly agreed (@DrNwando): “This is the tweet I wish I tweeted.”

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However, Kelly Swords, MD, MPH, urologist, University of California, San Diego, in a dissenting opinion, stated the obvious (@k_dagger): “Except there is no substitute for human interaction.”

Worth the Effort?

The cancellation of medical meetings has given those who regularly attend an opportunity to reassess their value and to question the worth of the effort involved in attending in person.

David Steensma, MD, hematologist-oncologist, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, (@DavidSteensma) tweeted that he would like to scale back: “The present crisis is an opportunity to reassess what is actually necessary and rebalance [in terms of meetings].”

Travel to meetings is often unpleasant, said others.

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