Pandemic or not, San Diego in November is just about the perfect place to spend time. This year, “America’s Finest City” hosted the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP) annual meeting, and it was a joyous occasion.
“It was electric,” commented Arnie Clayman, Vice President for Pharmacy Practice and Government Affairs at ASCP. Welcoming close to 900 people back after a nearly 2-year hiatus was cause for smile-filled conversations and plenty of enthusiastic hugs.
One of the most popular features of the annual ASCP meeting is the trade show, where industry vendors showcase their offerings to their target audience. It’s always a great opportunity for suppliers to show off their solutions to common pain points and for industry professionals to learn about what’s available to make them more productive and effective. The trade was well represented at ASCP this year, and vendor participation was nearly equal to what it was prior to the lockdowns.
The agenda for the event was packed with presentations, mostly focused on clinical issues important to consultant pharmacists. Among the most popular non-clinical sessions was the update from Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials. As is often the case, there were more questions from attendees than answers from the DEA, but those in attendance appreciated the DEA’s presence and were grateful for ASCP’s continuing engagement with the agency.
Just as important were the hundreds of conversations between friends that revealed the toll the pandemic had taken on the professionals called upon to respond to a historic health crisis that lasted longer than anyone expected. One attendee noted that many of the pharmacy owners and managers expressed concern over finding and keeping talent to keep their operations running smoothly. The problems of staff retention are not unique to the nursing home sector. Pharmacies struggle to attract and retain frontline workers to process and dispense prescription orders.
As the conference revealed, the world is ready to re-open and re-engage. Humans, it seems, are built to interact personally with other humans without the mediation of social networks and video screens. Hybrid events, with a small number of attendees appearing in person, augmented by larger numbers attending virtually through video/audio links, were the best alternative to no gatherings, but never seemed to promote as much engagement as live events.
The pandemic has spurred consideration (in all types of industries) that the format of events needs refreshing. Despite the clear benefits of being present with each other, barriers include the cost of attending, the need to block schedules, to arrange travel and lodging, and to endure the inconvenience of complying with all the new regulations of spending time in public places. Certainly, finding a balance between connecting through technology and connecting in person will continue to be a theme in the healthcare field, as elsewhere.
So, what’s the verdict on the first live annual ASCP meeting following a long absence? Perhaps Chad Worz, CEO of ASCP, said it best:
Returning to normal is something all of us have been striving for since the early lockdown in March of 2020. In many ways, we fight the ebb and flow of the realities of the pandemic every day, and we recognize that some things may never return to the way they were before COVID-19. That’s not necessarily always negative because even without a pandemic, things change. The hope is that things change for the better.
Thanks to ASCP for putting on a memorable meeting and giving the industry a chance to see each other after a long time apart.
Written by: Paul Baldwin, Baldwin Health Policy Group
Paul’s pharmaceutical industry experience in public and government affairs led to becoming Executive Director of the Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, helping lead the industry through the Medicare Modernization Act and creation of the prescription drug benefit. Paul was VP of Public Affairs for Omnicare before founding Baldwin Health Policy Group.