RSNA attendance may be down at this year’s annual meeting

A new survey suggests that the Radiological Society of North America may be facing some headwinds heading into this year’s annual meeting.

The research, published by Reaction Data, found that 75% of respondents do not plan to attend the RSNA Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting later this year. That figure is 4% higher than the number of individuals who passed up on the gathering in 2019. Results of the survey were taken from a small sample size (192 responses), compared to the 51,800 total attendees who showed at last year's meeting, according to RSNA figures.

Most of the respondents want the radiology organization to reduce the costs associated with attending (18%) and to change the date to a better time of the year (13%). (RSNA takes place the weekend after Thanksgiving in Chicago.) Another 12% didn’t want to see any alterations made to the event.

The results run counter to RSNA's own survey of 2019 attendees, which found only 7% of respondents did not plan to attend "future" meetings, the society told Health Imaging in an email statement. RSNA also said it regularly surveys meeting attendees and has commissioned "large-sample surveys" from external research groups with results that have been consistent with the society's own findings.

Reaction Data's information also comes months after RSNA announced that it is making some changes to the annual assembly beginning in 2021. According to a Nov. 15 announcement, the imaging organization will cease educational programming on the final Friday of the meeting, instead closing shop on Thursday. This move, according to the imaging society, will allow the organization to reduce costs for attendees, and noted that the response to this change has been "extremely positive."

RSNA also said it’s cutting the 450,000 square-foot show floor hours from five days to four. These changes, according to the society, were made in response to attendee feedback.

To gather its intel, American Fork, Utah-based Reaction Data polled individuals via its cloud-based research tool. Radiologists made up a majority (40%) of responses, followed by imaging techs (14%), PACS administrators (13%) and radiology directors (11%).

In total, the company collected 192 responses from provider groups across the U.S. And a minority (29%) of answers came from those who attended the 2019 gathering, with the remaining 71% from individuals who did not attend last year.

Most said they didn’t attend in 2019 because the conference was “not useful” (29%). Other reasons included unavailability (28%), cost (27%) and timing (12%). RSNA said, however, that a "strong majority" of last year's attendees found the meeting offered "excellent value," with an overall satisfaction rating of 94%, according to results of its own survey

"RSNA remains committed to keeping pace with the rapidly progressing field of radiology and adapting to the changing needs of our members and meeting attendees," RSNA said over email. "Our annual meeting planning committees are dedicated to delivering an exceptional radiology forum, filled with innovation, stimulating education programs, the field's top science and the latest technological advances in a format that reflects the fast-paced lifestyle of busy RSNA meeting attendees."

Last year's meeting in Chicago drew some 51,800 attendees, with 2,490 participants registering online for the virtual meeting. But the responses regarding attendance at last year’s meeting, combined with their newest findings, indicate RSNA needs to make some adjustments, the authors argued.

“Given that the vast majority of radiology and medical imaging personnel don’t attend each year and that, from initial research, even less attend in the near future, it’s obvious that RSNA needs to up its game to make the conference more worthwhile to attend,” authors of the research wrote.

It's not all on the event organizers, however. Reaction found that attendees are not completely satisfied with the vendor offerings at the annual meeting, noting “…it’s obvious that the vendors themselves need to reassess the experiences they are offering their customers and potential buyers.”

“Vendors should be asking themselves: ‘what does a radiologist/PACS admin-/imaging director what to see instead of what we want to sell?’ The golden rule may be old but it’s certainly never out of style.”

RSNA's Annual Meeting and Scientific Assembly is the largest medical imaging forum in the world, according to their website, and attracts professionals from more than 100 countries.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to incorporate remarks from RSNA. It has also been corrected to accurately reflect the number of virtual attendees, which was previously misreported. RSNA recorded 2,490 virtual only registrants at its 2019 annual meeting.