Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Medical conferences expensive, repetitive and over-commercialised

by Hera Hui
Medical conferences and related events occur frequently throughout China. Attending a high-level academic meeting can help Chinese doctors build relationships with their peers and improve their professional capabilities. But what types of conferences benefit these busy professionals? Do Chinese doctors find time to attend academic meetings, and what do they believe the purpose to be of these events?
DXY.cn, the largest Chinese online academic portal, conducted an Internet-based survey asking, "What academic conferences are you anticipating attending?"During the 1-month survey, 2162 valid responses were collected and then reported. Of those who responded, 58.0% were doctors located in tertiary hospitals, 27.6% in secondary hospitals, 11.4% in primary hospitals, and the rest were in other settings
In regard to professional titles, about one fifth of respondents were professors or associate professors (5.4% and 17.9%, respectively), two fifths (39.9%) were attending doctors, and the rest were residents and interns (29.5% and 7.3%, respectively). Over half (59.9%) of the participants had a service experience of 6 years or longer; 31.6%, 1-5 years; and 8.5%, less than 1 year.
Academic conferences are important venues for continuing medical education (CME). The survey shows that most respondents (62.3%) take part in 1-3 academic conferences every year, whereas 19.5% of the respondents attend 4-6 academic conferences annually. Notably, 14.8% of the respondents attend more than 6 academic conferences annually, which means that they participate in such events almost every 1 or 2 months on average. Only 3.4% of the respondents "never attend"
When answering the question "What is considered the optimal duration for an academic conference?", 86.5% of the respondents favor 2-3 days, while 39.2% and 47.3% prefer 2 days and 3 days respectively. Only 4.7% of the respondents think that 1 day is enough, and 8.8% chose "4 days or more".
 A short event often is less informative, whereas a prolonged meeting can overwhelm the audience and make it difficult to arrange daily activities.
The respondents were asked to select which sponsors of academic conferences were most trusted and to choose as many as applied. As shown in the survey, the vast majority (91.1%) of the respondents prefer to take part in conferences held by academic societies/associations, hospitals/departments, and colleges/scientific research institutes (accounting for 45.5%, 31.2%, and 15.2%, respectively). Only 8.1% of the respondents are more interested in events sponsored by advertising/exhibition companies
Symposiums/workshops are most welcomed by doctors because they are more focused and targeted. On the contrary, about one third (34.2%) of the respondents prefer to attend national academic conferences. In keeping with academic globalization, a notable 17.6% of doctors show interest in international academic meetings. Few doctors are interested in local academic conferences and commercial events (6.6% and 0.6%, respectively).
Respondents were asked about their major purpose for attending academic events. They were allowed to choose any answer choice that applied. Most (86.8%) respondents choose "academic exchange" as their main purpose for attending academic meetings. Also, 76.2% of the respondents are willing to learn about new technologies and new products at such events. Academic meetings also can serve other functions: 47.5% of respondents attend to obtain CME credits and 31.3% go for social networking
Normally, CME credits play an important role in academic conferences. However, more than half (55.6%) of the respondents clearly expressed that they will attend academic conferences that offer no CME credits, while 39.4% chose "it depends" and only 5.0% insist that they will not attend an academic meeting without CME credit.
An interesting question, then, is whether doctors from different tiers of hospitals have different attitudes toward academic conferences that do not offer any CME credit. The survey shows that up to 58.1% of the respondents from primary hospitals will not attend, while only 6.3% and 4% of doctors from the secondary and tertiary hospitals, respectively, chose this option, which may be explained by the fact that doctors in the secondary and tertiary hospitals have more access to CME credits. Therefore, meetings that highlight CME credits may be more popular among doctors from primary hospitals.
As shown in the survey, most (78.4%) respondents attended academic conferences with a registration fee below RMB 1000 yuan, 20.9% have participated in events with a registration fee of RMB 1001-3000 yuan, and only 0.7% attend those with an RMB of 3001 yuan or above
In reply to the question "Are you willing to attend academic conferences at your own expenses?", only 24.0% chose "yes"; 28.2% chose "no," and 47.8% replied "it depends".
To 87.1% of the respondents, an "acceptable self-paid expense" is "below RMB 1000 yuan"; 12.7% chose "RMB 1001-3000 yuan," and only 0.2% selected "RMB 3001 or above"
The medical sciences have become more specialized in recent decades and so have the academic conferences. Are doctors in China satisfied with their domestic meetings? The survey respondents were invited to score the overall conditions of the domestic academic conferences using a 10-point system. The results showed that scores below 5 accounted for 20.8%, scores of 5-7 for 67.1%, and scores of 8 and above for only 12.1%
In a list of "areas for improvement," the options selected most frequently included repeated topics, commercialisation, high charges, limited interaction, and poor organizsation capability.
On the basis of the feedback from the respondents, meeting sponsors in China may consider: (1) enhancing academic inclusiveness and encouraging academic debates; (2) linking academic lectures with real-world clinical practice; (3) avoiding out-of-date information; and (4) improving the registration and receipt processes, finding a balanced point between academia and commercialization.
Source: Medscape

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