Poke Your GI Colleagues

Dr. David A. Greenwald

Dr. David A. Greenwald introduces the GI Circle Web page. Photo by Sherry Boschert.

From the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting, San Diego

The Mayo Clinic has a Facebook page. The Cleveland Clinic posts to YouTube. But the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) has outdone them both.

Borrowing a page from Facebook and other social media, the ACG has launched its own social-professional networking site, and apparently is the first medical association to do so. It could have revolutionary implications in the long run for medical meetings.

Called ACG GI Circle — and currently accessible only to ACG members, not to nonmembers or the media — the site drew more than 800 subscribers on the first day of the annual meeting out of 4,000-some conference attendees, Dr. David A. Greenwald, a member of the ACG’s Board of Governors, said at a press briefing.

“It’s something that I think is very akin to Facebook,” he said. If you’re a gastroenterologist and don’t know what that means, find a teenager fast.

Participants can “request to connect” with another participant (the equivalent of “friending” on Facebook). Or you can connect with a group of participants (for instance if the Board of Governors created a group for its members). You can search by research topic or find abstracts from ACG meetings and leave comments for others to see and respond to.

A main role for the GI Circle is to supplement an individual’s experience at ACG conferences. “At a meeting like this, you can’t get to everything,” but you can see what you missed and interact with colleagues about those sessions through the GI Circle, Dr. Greenwald said. The site also could host a live presentation as a Webcast, with online discussions about it afterward.

I’m thinking this could be the beginning of the (very gradual) end of large medical meetings as we know them. As worldwide pressures increase for everyone to reduce their carbon footprints, meetings may attract regional attendees, with others “attending” online rather than traveling long distances. Dr. Greenwald said there’s been at least one trial of a regional meeting along those lines, but that model (fewer live attendees) could leave the conference organizers footing a larger share of expenses. So I don’t expect to see a rush to replace some meeting attendance with online participation, even if I think it may be inevitable.

Besides, Dr. Greenwald said, “Nothing replaces face-to-face contact.”

Got that, Facebook?

–Sherry Boschert (@SherryBoschert on Twitter)

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Filed under Gastroenterology, Practice Trends

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