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Unlike other new media initiatives, virtual dinner meetings and the have an existing regulatory framework—and they’r e popular with physicians
Even as pharma marketers are adjusting to new aggregate-spending rules that would include money spent on dinner meetings for physicians, the virtual form of these is quickly becoming a preferred medium, according to Bill Cooney, president of MedPoint Digital (Evanston, IL). Last month, he renamed the company (from MedPoint Communications) in light of their growing business in virtual meetings for training or promotional campaigns, and a move to a new, high-tech headquarters.
Unlike social media or online promotion where industry and others await guidance from FDA’s Div. of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC), an online, virtual promotional meeting is a drop-in replacement for conventional in-person dinner meetings from a regulatory standpoint. Add to this the tightening rules on aggregate spending for healthcare professionals, as well as the considerable savings in travel expenses, hotel bookings and the like, and the format becomes a communication channel that is switching from in-person to online very quickly. The buzz around the iPad 2, with video downloading via Apple Face Time, only adds momentum; the touch tablet is a popular tool both for physicians and for sales reps.
Medpoint Digital, which has been around since the early 1990s, has seen many changes in the medical education field. Five or so years ago, when the practice of industry-sponsored medical education was dramatically cut back by regulations and medical-society prohibitions, the company shifted from developing educational materials to investing in online training resources. It now has a division, Research Services Group, that provides online training and meetings for clinical investigators. On the marketing services side, it develops webcast events, speaker training, speaker/KOL portals and related services for manufacturers, as well as acting as a contractor to medical advertising agencies.
“Social media, mobile computing and the like are all exciting new communication channels that deserve experimentation—and some will succeed, and some fail,” says Cooney. “But virtual dinner meetings are a proven, format that works for both manufacturers and physicians.”