Everything is Changing: HCPs’ evolving priorities and behaviors at healthcare congresses

Jack Health Blog

August 3rd, 2021 By Jimmy Doucette

healthcare congresses hcp marketingThe healthcare congress is back! It’s a massive channel that’s vital to marketing strategies and healthcare professional (HCP) connections. And it’s evolving.

I am a decade into a strategy career that has been laser-focused on how HCPs engage with commercial and clinical content at events. From that seat and post-Covid 19, I see one big truth: the meaningful changes to the channel aren’t big and obvious. They are nuanced and subtle and have nothing to do with changes to the carpeting.

So now we’re ‘wheels up’ on the return to live experiences, and it’s the perfect opportunity to observe HCPs and learn how to best align the channel with their future needs. But we’ve already identified a few that are worth keeping an eye on. Here are the top five HCP behaviors and insights you should focus on when creating an experience at a congress.

  1. The commercial and medical balance has evolved.

HCPs crave engagement. Traditionally, this occurs in commercial spaces over unbranded ones, but in recent years, HCPs’ preferences have skewed toward the clinical. This shift has been recognized by the industry, especially at generalist meetings. It’s led to medical taking a front seat for many mega- and large-cap pharma companies, and that means the role of reps is likely to evolve. In fact, many HCPs don’t actively differentiate between commercial and medical experiences at all. The opportunity for better, win-win engagements is in acknowledging the commercial team’s responsibility and finding the right balance.

  1. HCPs know who they want to meet with before they pack.

HCPs will start building their meetings lists for a congress when the association releases a formal agenda (about 4-6 weeks in advance). That represents the window for reps and medical science liaisons (MSLs) to reach out and get on their calendar.

  1. Meaningful and well-crafted virtual experiences are here to stay.

While event professionals and HCPs are longing for face-to-face interaction, the accelerated innovation of virtual platforms isn’t for naught. Virtual platforms have and will likely continue to play a critical role in increasing access to HCPs who cannot travel. They also build a thoughtful bridge to missed connections onsite. On the back of these virtual platforms, meeting registrations were way up across the board, which means the opportunity to engage a broader, more diverse, and more global audience exists. It’s key to acknowledge what works best online and onsite, and strategically tether the two with a memorable experience.

  1. Like us, HCPs remember experiences.

In the end, HCPs want to feel confident that they have access to the right products and services, heard as it relates to prescribing questions and concerns, and armed with real-world information they can bring back to their practice. We need to align the shifting pillars of our evolving channel to the behaviors and priorities of HCPs to unlock real value. We can do that by approaching congress activity as an accelerator to our engagement objectives and strategically tying disparate congress activities with experiential learning threads.

  1. The opportunity to network at healthcare congresses reigns supreme.

As a general observation, HCPs see networking and peer-to-peer dialogue as their primary tool for the advancement of their research and careers. Lack of those opportunities and the gaps therein virtual congress executions was likely a significant barrier to attending online meetings (attendance being an important data distinction to meeting registrations, discussed above).

From key opinion leader (KOL) engagement to the exhibit halls and educational sessions, there is an untapped opportunity for industry leaders to endorse and foster peer-to-peer networking opportunities.

Thousands of HCPs descend on healthcare congresses each year and as these events start back up and halls begin to fill again, brands must consider what has changed. The opportunities to make an impact are endless, but it’s important to remember that the plane has just left the runway, there’s a long flight still ahead.

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