With the traditional structure of live medical education turned upside down, academic medical centers have had to rethink how training is done and how information is shared.
Explore This IssueJune 2021
During a panel at the virtual Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meetings (COSM) in April, physicians and meeting directors discussed how they’ve put together virtual events and reimagined meetings as they’ve kept participants distanced, and even put together live training sessions with precautions.
Carl Snyderman, MD, MBA, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh, said that clinical work revved back up at his center after the initial stoppage associated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but educational activities “took a hit.” That has started to improve. His center, he said, has participated in a “profusion of webinars,” which has led to some new benefits. “People are getting together who wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said. Webinars with participants from around the world have allowed widespread involvement. “We can pop in for an hour-long lecture right in the middle of our clinical schedule or between surgeries,” he said.
There have been hiccups, however. A live surgery demonstration, for which more than 1,000 people signed up internationally, had technical glitches. “We had to sort of have an I.T. person sitting in a closet with all the servers and running a connection between a laptop to make sure that we could get the feed from the OR,” Dr. Snyderman said. And technology constraints can affect meetings: Certain platforms allow only a few hundred people, and meeting software has certain features—such as live discussion—that some organizers liked while others didn’t. “Invariably, new problems come up,” he said. “Your I.T. person is worth their weight in gold.”
Kate Hutcheson, PhD, professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said her center has developed the Head and Neck Collaborative Webinar Series, consisting of seven 90-minute webinars that run every two months on a variety of topics.
“This is definitely a whole new world,” she said. “It was unfamiliar for us to figure out how to structure this.” But she said it’s been rewarding and well-received by participants.
In live CME meetings, a center’s own faculty was often used to keep costs down, but this was no longer a concern once the classes became virtual, and the quality has improved as a result, said Dr. Hutcheson. “One of the real advantages we found in moving to the virtual platform was the ability to be a little bit less insular at a lower cost,” she said.
Dr. Hutcheson’s center has received in-kind industry support with the use of a technical platform and live tech support, which allows organizers to focus on programming rather than technical issues, she said. When it comes to live virtual events, it’s all about the tech check. “We found that doing it about two days before the live offering is good because everyone, for the most part, has their slides together by then,” Dr. Hutcheson said. “If they need to run a video presentation, they can check it then. A week before the event is too early.”