Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are We Seeing the Death Spiral of Conventional Medical Conferences?

I think so.

It was apparent to me at the Heart Rhythm Society Scientific Sessions meeting and now a similar trend was noticed by Dr. Steven Sedlis at this year's American Heart Association meeting:
It felt like a ghost town. I ran into Ira Schulman, my medicine resident at Bellevue when I was a third year medical student; we looked at one another and simultaneously blurted out “where is everybody?”
. . .

There are probably numerous reasons for plummeting attendance at AHA. The economy, the on-line publication of trial results prior to presentation, the ubiquity of conference calls, e-mail strings and yes blogs that keep one in regular contact with colleagues throughout the country and the world without the need for face-to-face encounters are just some of the obvious causes.

The scaling back of industry support may be another major factor at play here. Certainly there are fewer exhibitors and the exhibits are far less lavish. As Muhamed Saric pointed out when I met him on the floor of the exhibit hall there were no Siemens or Philips exhibits, and in fact I could not find any cath lab manufacturers presenting their products at the AHA. The need to diminish the influence of industry on the medical profession and the need to avoid conflicts of interest were brought up at many of the presentations at the session by leaders of the AHA and other thought leaders in academic medicine, but one unintended consequence of this well-intentioned effort seems to be less financial support for the meeting itself.
I've always enjoyed the socialization and camaraderie that comes with medical conferences, but with the uncertainty of the current health care climate for doctors, the rising costs of these conferences for attendees, and the increased comfort doctors have for receiving medical information via the internet and social media, the need for traveling to medical conferences has quickly become obsolete. While medical device company or pharmaceutical reps might still find these venues moderately entertaining, without their ultimate customers in attendance, the medical scientific session conference marketing circuit will slowly fade away.


1 comment:

Tim Thigpen, Editor said...

Dear Dr. Wes,

I am writing as the Editor of EchoChief and wanted to reiterate your observation as to industry participation.

We noted as you did the absence of Siemens and Philips, as well as MindRay at the 2009 AHA. Yet all three were at full force at the RSNA.

To the forces you mentioned to explain the industry's behavior you mentioned we would add:

-executives own experience and the corporate culture

-where they see their opportunities
in terms of future revenue flow