Increased use of social media and technology can affect the way that medical congresses are conducted and attended. For example, instead of having to attend an event in person, participants can join activities online from remote locations and review meeting materials post-event. Using the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) annual conference as an example, digital healthcare consultant, Len Starnes reviewed the extent to which the format of medical congresses has evolved in recent years.
Starnes refers to an article published in 2013, in which he predicted that the number of virtual conference attendees would soon outnumber those visiting in person. This was found to be the case at ESC in 2014, where there were 24,622 physical attendees compared with 25,178 virtual participants. Starnes also notes that ESC’s online meeting materials were heavily viewed post-conference, demonstrating the value of online resources in extending the duration of a medical event. In a response to the impact of digital technologies, ESC’s strategic plan for 2016–2020 states that their congress model will be adapted to suit the changing requirements of audiences and that a virtual congress concept with live online streaming will be tested. Furthermore, for the first time, ESC published Twitter guidelines for its ECS 2018 meeting. As noted by Starnes, the use of Twitter at ESC has substantially increased over the last few years and the importance of social media platforms was emphasised in a session at the congress entitled ‘Social media for the cardiologist’.
As Starnes describes, congresses such as the ESC annual meeting are changing to meet the demands of attendees, who are increasingly using online resources and social media. As such, over the coming years further changes may be expected, which could potentially see the medical congress transition from a traditional physical meeting towards an interactive virtual event.