Published 30 Oct 2017

When considering whether or not to attend a conference or event, only 11% of healthcare professionals (HCPs) do not investigate whether there is virtual access to sessions and materials, and 90% agree that access to information and discussion beyond a scientific meeting helps them to apply new medical approaches more quickly. This makes compelling evidence for the need to provide better online access to meetings and to ensure the availability of meeting output via multiple channels. Indeed, 88% of pharma industry professionals state they would like to increase such provision.

These were some of the findings of a research study published by EPG Communications Group in September 2017. Revealing evidence of a divide between what HCPs want and what the pharmaceutical industry is currently supplying, the study investigates the obstacles faced by HCPs in accessing scientific meetings, and highlights a new set of challenges for all stakeholders surrounding the delivery of meetings and their output, both onsite and online, in the Digital Age. These challenges were the topic up for debate during a webinar on 18th October 2017, with a multi-stakeholder panel in agreement on the need for greater focus on collaboration in order to overcome them.

The demand

Our research reveals that approximately three quarters of HCPs think attending virtual meetings is more convenient, cost efficient and time-saving than attending onsite meetings and more than half state that the ‘ability to attend a wider range of events’ is an advantage of virtual meetings over attendance in person. Increased availability of online access to meetings and their output would help meet the demands of HCPs, but the study also reveals a number of challenges faced by industry in trying to meet these needs. When planning onsite meetings, only 33% of pharmaceutical respondents claimed they ‘always’ or ‘usually’ consider the opportunities for virtual or online access.

What are the challenges?

Primarily, the obstacles cited by industry professionals are internal ones. 61% stated that an internal lack of confidence in the benefits of providing or supporting more virtual/online activities is an obstacle. An internal reluctance to change was recorded by half of pharma professionals, and a lack of internal knowledge and skills was recorded by 44%. Another challenge for pharma, is that of trust: the majority of HCPs value pharma support, according to the study, but they do not value direct pharma influence over the content or the platform.

What’s the solution?

The research report offers compelling evidence to support change and overcome some of the internal challenges faced by the pharma industry: 70% of HCPs believe virtual/online events to be a valuable alternative to onsite meetings and, in terms of increasing the longevity of meeting output, the research shows that 81% of HCPs prefer to access materials throughout the year, rather than be limited to the duration of the event.

The ‘internal lack of knowledge’ and lack of HCP trust in pharma portals could be overcome with multi-stakeholder collaboration: While 71% of pharma company respondents reported investing more in their own portals (than in third party/independent portals), only one third of HCPs rated the trustworthiness of pharma portals as high or very high. By utilising independent online portals to provide virtual events and digital tools or content surrounding scientific events, the pharma industry can address this lack of trust.

Working with independent websites and third party agencies can also bring the additional benefits of audience reach, digital expertise and engagement that pharma may struggle to achieve on its own. The research shows that 66% of service providers ‘always’ or ‘usually’ consider the opportunities for virtual or online access to scientific meetings and their output, compared to just one third of pharma. With the report clearly indicating that pharma agencies have a greater awareness and ability to cater to the evolving digital demands of HCPs, working more closely with them may be key to pharma effectively delivering that service.


A multichannel/omnichannel approach to scientific meetings, alongside collaboration (both internally and with all other stakeholders including medical associations and independent online portals) which challenges the barriers to sharing data1, are the key to keeping pace with the evolving education needs of HCPs. EPG Group is focused on understanding and bridging the gap between HCP demand and industry supply of educational content. For further information on this topic, you can download the full research report, view our service offering and client case study or read a report about our webinar on overcoming the challenges of scientific meetings in the Digital Age.

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To ensure that scientific meetings are as successful as they can be, we implement an omni-channel strategy. This holistic approach to content delivery uses multiple channels that work together seamlessly to create a consistent and personalised experience for your customer, regardless of where, when or how they begin their journey.


In early 2015, EPG Group began a global initiative with a pharma client whose core objective was to develop an innovative, efficient and sustainable approach to HCP engagement via multiple channels. This included extending exposure to output from live meetings and other valuable sources of educational content. Now in its third year, the programme integrates on- and off-line activities while supporting HCP education and engagement both at and beyond live events. Learn how...