Feature

Doctors sound off about future of medical meetings


 

Is This the Time to Evaluate Meetings?

Coming up soon is the first major conference to go virtual after being canceled – the American College of Cardiology (ACC), which has been one of the top 20 largest meetings in the United States by attendance.

This meeting, which was to have taken place in Chicago on March 28–30, will now occur online on those days. The ACC says it will stream all “live” sessions on demand and provide access to additional videos, abstracts, and slides for at least 90 days after the meeting. And it will be free to anyone with an Internet connection.

Medical meetings in distant locales may bounce back, as they have grown into a very big business. ASCO is illustrative.

The group’s first scientific annual meeting was held in 1965 in Philadelphia, with about 70 members and invited guests in attendance. Fast forward 50-plus years to 2019: there were 42,500 attendees, a 4.4% increase from 2018. Notably, the top countries in attendance in 2019 were the United States and China.

Not everyone is happy that canceled meetings are being held online in the middle of a pandemic.

“In a COVID-19 world, the brain cannot focus on nonviral topics,” said commentator John Mandrola, MD, Baptist Health, Louisville, Kentucky, in his regular column for Medscape Cardiology/theheart.org.

The virtual ACC meeting should be canceled or delayed – to mirror what is happening in the world, he argues. “In hospitals, we have postponed the elective to make room for the coming surge. Shouldn’t ACC do the same? After the crisis passes, we can have a virtual meeting with a proper discussion of the science,” he writes.

But #MedTwitter, with its collective constructive criticism of medical meetings, is perhaps proof that the brain can function – and arrive at clarity – when under pandemic duress.

“Am I the only one experiencing a certain relief at the cancellation of multiple trips and meetings, and vowing to let this revelation affect my decision making in the future,” tweeted Steven Joffe, MD, MPH, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (@Steve Joffe).

Louise Perkins King, MD, a bioethicist at Harvard Medical School, responded to Joffe. Hoping not to “belittle” the suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, she (@louise_p_king) addressed her healthcare colleagues: “...there is potential for us all to learn what is essential travel and burden and what is not from this. I hope it leads to lasting change.”

This article first appeared on Medscape.com.

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