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Telemedicine Group Strikes Balance With Hybrid Event

While one would assume the American Telemedicine Association would lean heavily on virtual technology, organizers of its recent hybrid conference say the key to doing virtual right is understanding its strengths and using that to complement the in-person component.

The American Telemedicine Association is all about helping those in the medical field maximize use of telehealth when it makes sense. So, it’s no coincidence that ATA took the same approach when it came to hosting the group’s first hybrid annual conference since the pandemic began.

“As we planned it, we said, ‘What parts of virtual can be complementary without taking away from the importance of that in-person aspect of shaking a hand, networking, hearing content, and having interaction?’” said Paul Samargedlis, senior vice president, business development and strategy, at ATA.

For ATA, the virtual component was there to help people who wanted the learning but couldn’t come in person. Samargedlis isn’t a big believer in the idea of virtual offerings cannibalizing in-person attendance. Rather, he thinks people are looking at your content and choose the method of attendance that best fits their personal needs. Rather than cannibalizing in-person attendance, he thinks virtual can entice people to attend.

“We had people attend virtually, and they might decide now to attend in person next year. Or they might not,” Samargedlis said. “We’re not trying to change that choice. We’re trying to make it available to be consumed and use that as an opportunity to engage.”

Having the virtual component was also beneficial to in-person attendees. “If you were an attendee in person and missed the session, that session was available on demand when you logged into the platform,” Samargedlis said.

Use Virtual to Continue Engagement

For ATA, the pandemic changed who is interested in its offerings. Pre-pandemic, mainly large health systems were interested in using telemedicine, but that’s shifted to smaller providers, who showed up at the event. Samargedlis hopes to use virtual to keep those people engaged.

“Before the pandemic, most primary care physicians wouldn’t have looked at telehealth if you gave them tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers,” Samargedlis said. “Now they’re saying, ‘I need to develop some standards. I need to make this a component of the care I deliver, so I’m going to the event.’ So, we’re listening and figuring out how they want to engage.”

One way ATA hopes to continue engaging is by following up with in-person attendees virtually.

“We want to do things that complement what we did in person,” Samargedlis said. “Maybe three months after the event, we could do a recap and a think-tank type discussion virtually that keeps the conversation stitched together.”

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a senior editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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