Virtual medical meetings came to the rescue in 2020. But, are they here to stay?

It’s safe to say the medical industry is eager to get back to live conferences, but there are some aspects of the virtual experience you can expect to see into 2021 and beyond.

What started out as a mad dash to adapt to a new format eventually became an opportunity for both medical organizations and pharma companies to raise the bar when it came to disseminating study results. Doctors got more comfortable accessing presentations online and pharmaceutical companies refined the way they delivered information—and many of them were pleased with the outcome.

One of the most interesting results being a hybrid conference model featuring both in-person and virtual attendance options.

You can’t do everything remotely, but we have learned quite a bit in this last year” about “what’s feasible to be done remotely, and I guarantee you that will carry over,” said Axel Hoos, M.D., Ph.D., GlaxoSmithKline’s senior vice president of oncology R&D, told Fierce Pharma.

Such a model gives drugmakers a bigger stage to trumpet their newest discoveries. Or as Dave Fredrickson, executive vice president and global head of AstraZeneca’s oncology business unit put it for Fierce Pharma: “I think that the real benefit that we’ve seen from the virtual medical meetings has been the reach and number of participants from around the globe that have been able to benefit from seeing the presentation of scientific data in real time.” 

John Tsai, M.D., Novartis’ chief medical officer, noted that this hybrid way also allows practitioners to attend conferences without having to be away from their patients.

But “The societies are going to be keen to try to get back to in-person meetings, I suspect, as soon as they’re able to do so,” AZ’s Fredrickson agreed. “That would be my prediction.