Tag Archives: AIDS

Are virtual medical meetings the wave of the future?

It’s now possible to go to a medical meeting without actually going to the meeting.CROI Webcasts

I was assigned to cover the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), one of the year’s most important HIV/AIDS meetings, currently underway in San Francisco. But through a series of snafus too boring to mention I was not able to register for the conference.

No problem, said the organizers, more than 90% of the conference will be webcast.

I’ve heard this song before, and usually it means that at some distant future date some low-quality audio may be available for purchase at the rate of $40/session or thereabouts.

But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that CROI is offering much, much more. The webcasts are free, they include high quality audio, video, and PowerPoint slides, and the day’s sessions are all available the same evening. Oh, and the audio files, with slides, are also available for download in mp3 and iTunes format. For free.

Virtual attendance via webcast has both advantages and disadvantages compared to physical attendance in “meatspace.”

Advantages

  • No need to pay for travel, hotel, or even meeting registration.
  • Smaller environmental impact.
  • Can attend all sessions, even ones occurring simultaneously.
  • Can clearly hear and see the speaker, the slides, and participants in the Q&A session.
  • Can pause and rewind audio, study PowerPoint slides closely, and actually read those slides that speakers introduce by saying, “Now this slide is a little busy, but . . .”
  • Can attend in pajamas.

Disadvantages

  • No schmoozing, no networking, no catching up with old friends and colleagues.
  • Requires a fairly fast Internet connection for non-jerky video. Even with a fast connection (in CROI’s implementation, at least) streaming tended to stop halfway through a 2-hour session, and the only way to resume was to exit and reload.
  • Not possible to get a sense of how interested–or uninterested–the audience was in a particular talk.
  • I’m a big fan of poster sessions, but the CROI did not make the posters available on its webcast.
  • No way to earn CME credit for watching the webcasts, in this implementation at least.
  • No opportunity to spend time in San Francisco, one of the most exciting and beautiful cities on Earth.

I’m interested in hearing from physicians who have attended a conference via webcast. What did you think about the experience? I’d also like to hear from physicians who think this is the worst idea since bloodletting went out of fashion. Please vote in the poll and leave comments!

— Bob Finn (on Twitter @bobfinn)

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Filed under IMNG, Infectious Diseases, Polls, Practice Trends

Celebrity Viruses

Thin-section transmission electron micrograph of HIV. courtesy of CDC's Dr. A. Harrison; Dr. P. Feorino

Transmission electron micrograph of HIV, courtesy of CDC.

Today the Institute of Medicine released its report on improving recognition of and care for chronic hepatitis B and C infections.  In the report the IOM highlighted the lack of knowledge about hepatitis B and C among the general public but also among physicians, other healthcare providers, and social service providers. (see story)

In particular, the IOM recommended mounting a public awareness campaign similar to the successful HIV/AIDS campaign.  That begs the question of why HIV/AIDS has engendered such attention while hepatitis B and C have not.  Why has HIV been a sort of celebrity virus?  It’s estimated that 3-5 times as many people live with chronic hepatitis B and C than with HIV/AIDS. Yet in general, even physicians are poorly educated about these diseases.

Why?  Is it because HIV/AIDS posed an imminent threat to the health of an individual (i.e. death) when it was initially identified and before effective treatment regimens were available, ?  Is it because those with hepatitis B and C are often asymptomatic?  Is it because there are no celebrities with hepatitis B and C?  Is it because HIV/AIDS organizations are better organized and less fragmented?

The pervasive lack of knowledge about hepatitis B is particularly troubling, given that there is a very effective vaccine to prevent infection.  However, you can’t really get the vaccine if your physician doesn’t know about it.

Let us know what you think.  What’s behind the disparity?

—Kerri Wachter ( @knwachter on Twitter)

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Filed under Infectious Diseases, Primary care