18 June 2020

COVID-19 ends heyday of face-to-face education


Education providers and pharmaceutical vendors may never see the same return from hosting face-to-face GP events as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, data reveals.

Only 14% of GPs said they were “very likely” to attend an event in person over the next three months, climbing to only 28% by January of 2021, according to an online survey by Healthed which sampled 450 GPs and GP registrars.

Dr Ramesh Manocha, GP and CEO founder of Healthed, said the results showed GPs did not feel confident to attend face-to-face events, certainly not in sufficient numbers in the short term.

“Certainly, there is not much appetite for face-to-face education this year,” he said.

But when GPs were asked to reflect on how they would feel about attending a face-to-face event in a scenario of zero community transmission of COVID-19, 30% said they would be “very likely” to attend.

“We can see that even if we reach a point of no community transmission, or the availability of a vaccine, those numbers still won’t be where they were before the pandemic,” Dr Manocha said.

GP sentiment further shifted when asked about whether the hypothetical introduction of a COVID-19 vaccination would change their mind about attending a face-to-face event, with three-quarters of respondents being open to the idea of attending.

“This could indicate that people aren’t going to return to normal behaviour until a vaccine has addressed their fears,” Dr Mancoha said.

But even if a vaccination becomes available, the lower number of GPs willing to attend a potential face-to-face event could make running one financially unviable.

Historically, healthcare professionals have enjoyed discounted registration fees for face-to-face events, made possible by a volume of sponsors who absorb some of the overhead costs.

But with the uncertainty as to whether attendance will return to a pre-COVID-19 level, attending GP events in the future could become more expensive.

“Before the pandemic, there were a number of GPs who were reluctant to engage in digital education but we’ve seen a major shift in behaviour in a matter of months where everyone was forced to adopt digital options,” Dr Manocha said.

“This means that GPs are now familiar with digital, and some are really starting to like it.”

It was likely that if and when face-to-face events returned for healthcare professionals, they would require a strong digital element to make them attractive again, Dr Manocha said.

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