I always arrived hoping to take part in a vibrant conversation and coming away with insights about realizing the future of medicine. But most of the events were chock full of boring talks delivered in front of bullet-point filled Powerpoints, sounding and feeling the same as talks 20 years ago. As the needs of patients and physicians constantly change, so should medical events. But do their organizers realize this?

The best events today are different. Stanford MedicineX and Doctors 2.0 and You in Paris gather all stakeholders of healthcare and keep the discussion going through social media long after the event has ended.

Read on to learn the 4 key ways to catapult any medical event into the 21st century.

1) Include empowered patients

The most important stakeholders of healthcare have been ignored by most events for decades. I do not attend medical events that do not include patients either in the organizing committee or among the speakers anymore. The future of medicine will put patients in the center – how can we discuss it without involving them? Data show that patient satisfaction and outcomes skyrocket when we involve them in designing medicine. The Patients Included badge helps identify those events whose organization patients took an active part in. Stanford Medicine X even launched an e-patient ambassador program. Invite, ask, engage them!

2) Gamify events

In my home country, talking while eating is considered rude. It took me years to get used to the idea of starting discussion during lunch and dinner at medical events. It means some people might not be talkative in person because of cultural differences. What’s more, if an event is focused on speakers giving keynotes, workshops and discussions often feel lackluster, with attendees unmotivated to contribute. We could change this by adding proven gamification elements. Events could release mobile apps that provide not just program sheets and speaker descriptions, but ways to engage with speakers and network with other attendees.

Doctors 2.0 and You organized a challenge about which attendee takes the most steps each day and offered prizes. This provided a great icebreaker for attendees wishing to talk. Stanford Medicine X gave out M&Ms with attendee faces printed on, tasking us to find our M&M in other’s hands, this way creating new connections. People like to play – let’s build events that facilitate it.

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3) Integrate social media

Previously, when I met peers at an event, we might have found the time to talk some, and that was it. Modern events go on online even after the physical meetup has wrapped up. Attendees keep on discussing their fields of interest, the questions and issues raised at the event. Every conference and meetup  should have an official hashtag on Twitter and support this idea, integrating easy ways to share and discuss its events. Organizers would benefit from this as attendees would promote the event to their communities, turning interested bystanders into the next event’s participants. Browse tweetchats of #doctors20 and #medx to see the effect social media can have on medical events.

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4) Consider virtual reality

Social media helps connect us to our peers, but it’s not always enough. There is a reason why they say the “handshake” is missing from social media discussions. With virtual reality technology entering the mainstream, event organizers could launch virtual, collaborative workshops. Devices like the Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus could massively increase the reach of an event, putting participants in touch with experts and “virtual participants” from across the globe, enhancing dialogue and the quality of ideas generated. Moreover, those who cannot afford to travel around the world could still attend important medical meetings.

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These trends and technologies could help change the mindset of both event organizers, physicians, pharma and regulators attending or organizing medical events. It could bring patients and their caregivers closer.

And finally, we could have valuable interactions without geographical or time limitations, massively elevating the impact of each event. Who doesn’t want that?

Free guide and infographic: 40 trends of the future of medicine