By Kaitlyn Wallace
There’s a fairly straightforward recipe for setting the location of a typical meeting or conference: you look for travel accessibility, for nice weather, for convention center to fit the profile of your event and a bustling and walkable surrounding area. In short, you look for a location to fulfill the need of your event. But what changes when your event is healthcare-related? And the needs of your typical event suddenly turn from banquets and presentations to surgical space and cadavers?
Luckily, some locations are stepping up to help you fulfill the specific needs of the medical meeting community – from committees specifically tailored to conferences in the healthcare sector to specialized venues, locations everywhere are boosting their efforts to bring the incredibly lucrative healthcare industry to their cities. In this spirit, here are five techniques that top meetings cities are using to attract medical meetings and events:
1. PHILADELPHIA, PA: PLANNING
Philadelphia is the perfect example of a city ramping up its efforts to create infrastructure for medical meetings. Along with a location rich with prolific education institutions and healthcare organizations (including, 29 healthcare education institutions and over 100 hospitals), Philadelphia boasts easy access to other high-profile cities such as New York City and Washington D.C. It also houses the Philadelphia Convention Center, which contains approximately one million square feet of convention space and 73 meeting rooms. However, the most attractive thing to meeting professionals in the healthcare field is PHL Life Sciences. It is a subdivision of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is dedicated entirely to serving the unique needs of healthcare meetings and conferences. PHL Life Sciences works closely not only with educational institutions, healthcare companies and hospitals, but also with surrounding locations in New Jersey and Delaware in order to connect medical and healthcare conventions to the services and experts that can best serve their needs.
2. LAS VEGAS, NV: EXPANSION
Las Vegas is the most obvious example of a prime location for meeting space: from the Las Vegas Convention Center’s millions of square feet of meeting space to over 150,000 hotel or motel rooms, to a conveniently located international airport and predictably beautiful weather, Vegas has all of the signs of an excellent meeting space. Further, Las Vegas is in a bustling hub of healthcare development. surrounded specifically by bioskills and medical education facilities such as MedCure Nevada Surgical Training Center and the Center for Advanced Professional Education. This, coupled with Las Vegas’s Oquendo Center (a meeting space designed specifically for medicine, including 70,000 square feet of meeting space and 30 clinical labs), makes Las Vegas a prime location for medical education conferences or presentations of new biotechnology. Finally, though Las Vegas is not traditionally considered an educational hub, its medical education sector is expanding rapidly, adding two new medical schools in the past six years and continuing to attract healthcare companies and services. This serves as an excellent example to other cities which are not traditionally supported by medical, scientific, or educational facilities. Expansion is always possible, and is always appealing to professional in the industry. And all of this is part of the Las Vegas Regional Strategic Plan for Medical and Wellness Tourism, sponsored by a variety of Las Vegas healthcare and meeting professionals, which supports specific initiatives to make the city a center for healthcare related tourism and medical meetings (similar to the work done by Philadelphia’s PHL Life Sciences division).
3. IRVINE, CA: SPECIFICITY
Though a smaller and lesser known city than many others on this list, Irvine, California has made strides in making itself accessible to medical meetings and conferences. Only a 20-minute drive from its larder counterpart, Anaheim (known for attractions such as Disneyland and an impressive meeting space of its own – the Anaheim Convention Center), Irvine is home to several biotech companies and to USC., a leading research university. Most important, however, is the recently opened Axis Research and Technologies facility, designed specifically for medical meeting use. Axis succeeds where most hotels fail, setting up lab space and high-definition video, as well as accommodating one of the more difficult challenges for hotels attempting to host medical meetings – storage and transportation of cadavers. Facilities such as these are one of the most attractive assets for a city looking to expand its healthcare meetings, and have been hugely successful not only in Irvine, but also in similar locations such as Columbia, Maryland.
4. ORLANDO, FL: INNOVATION
Orlando, home to over 4000 science and healthcare companies, has attractions unique to healthcare as well as usual attributes positive for meeting planning, such as weather, entertainment, not to mention the state-of-the-art Orange County Convention Center, located near Orlando International Airport. Orlando contains an innovative and fast-growing health and science “park” – Lake Nona Medical City. Lake Nona, organized to bring medicine, education and research together, aims to expedite advances in science in medicine as well as provide expert and outstanding services to the public, and consists of a variety of hospitals, research labs, and health-related organizations in close proximity to one other. This unique “medical city” is a huge attraction to health-related tourism, and serves to build medical infrastructure in the region, which is indispensable for bringing medical meetings and conferences to the area.
5. WASHINGTON, DC: INFRASTRUCTURE
Finally, Washington DC, though an obvious choice, must also ne considered. This selection highlights the importance of existing infrastructure: DC has access to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Children’s National Medical Center, a leader in pediatric health, over 150 medical organizations, and the Healthcare Leadership Council, providing pull for many medical and healthcare-related conferences interested in leadership and innovation. Further, this infrastructure includes medical centers such as Inova’s Advanced Surgical Technology and Education Center, which provides necessary medical equipment as well as innovative display and recording capacities. These infrastructure capabilities, as well as a strategic political location, make D.C. an excellent candidate for hosting medical meetings and conferences.
Cities are using a variety of strategies to attract healthcare and medical meetings. It is, after all, a lucrative sector which brings with it the benefits of tourism, leadership and innovation to any city it may touch down in. This need not be left up to chance, however. By utilizing the strategies outlined above, cities can increase their appeal to the healthcare sector. First and foremost, the specific needs of the medical meetings must ne realized, and their importance understood, in order for their requirements to ne met appropriately. For this to happen, a plan of action must be made, similar to those which made Philadelphia and Las Vegas, which addresses specific concerns and begin to actively reach out to the healthcare sector for proper communication. Only with the interface of ideas between meeting and healthcare professionals can the specific needs of the industry be dressed. Secondly, those needs must be addressed with specificity; facilities like the Axis Research and Technologies facilities and the Oquendo Center most accurately and effectively fill the niche of medical meetings and are proven to be successful. Once the community’s needs have been understood, the next step is innovation; new and exciting ideas, such as Orlando’s Lake Nona Medical City, bring medical tourism and accelerate progress, both of which increase the city’s worth to meeting and healthcare professionals. The final needs, expansion and infrastructure, are two sides of the same coin; a city may be made attractive by its infrastructure and made to be more attractive by the expansion of this infrastructure.
These ideas function as steps stones to success, but they also count as signs. They count as signs that the city in question values the medical meeting industry and is eager to attract and work with meeting and healthcare professionals. So next time you’re looking for a location, remember: Planning. Expansion. Specificity. Innovation. Infrastructure. These are the qualities that will make a location ideal for any meeting, and that can make your next medical meeting one to remember.
Kaitlyn Wallace contributing writer/editor form St. Louis, Missouri.