Guest Post: Harvard Business Review
With in-person medical conferences curtailed during the Covid-19 pandemic, physicians across specialties have struggled to continue the development and training they’ve historically relied on these meetings for. Procedural subspecialists such as surgeons, gastroenterologists, and cardiologists in particular have long depended on live courses that use cadavers or simulation exercises to maintain their skills and to learn new techniques. Curtailed as well has been the personal and professional satisfaction of interacting with colleagues at these events, and the face-to-face discussions that lead to new research and academic collaborations.
Responding to these losses, medical organizations have rushed to try to recreate them online, with varying success. As senior leaders in the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), a worldwide group of spine surgeons, researchers, and associated professionals dedicated to improving the care of patients with spinal deformities, we have been closely involved in the planning and operations of the SRS’s largest meetings: The International Meeting on Advanced Spinal Techniques (IMAST) and the SRS Annual Meeting.
Before the pandemic, IMAST typically drew 750 or more attendees and the SRS 1,500 from dozens of countries. The pandemic forced a fundamental rethink of these meetings and how they could accomplish their goals in a virtual format. The experience we describe here captures the challenges conference leaders and participants faced, and opportunities we see for virtual medical meetings in the future.