How Social Media Can Invigorate Medical Conferences

From the very outset of the American College of Cardiology meeting, the hashtag #ACC16 began trending. Analytics from #ACC16 demonstrated that by the event’s end, there were nearly 3600 individual tweets, 35 million individual impressions, and roughly 1500 members participating via social media platforms such as Twitter. In other words, it’s quite clear that the ACC has embraced the digital space. And that’s as it should be. As cardiologists we are innovators and social media and digital engagement should be no exception. What follows is a look at how, in reflection of this, the ACC has folded this experience into its fabric.

There was an average of 155 tweets per hour and many participants “live tweeted” during important presentations such as the late-breaking clinical trials sessions each day. Leadership in digital engagement was spread among individual attendees, Twitter feeds from the college itself, and feeds from institutions such as the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics. (Interestingly, the “Top 10 Influencers” by impressions were not the same as the Top 10 by tweets – suggesting that what you say may be more influential that how much you say in the digital space.)

This investment in social media and mobile health extended to presentations as well. Researchers from Mayo clinic investigated whether or not patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation would benefit from using specially designed health tools on their smartphones. In the study, 80 patients were randomized to a group having access to a smartphone mobile health tool with cardiac rehabilitation versus rehabilitation alone. Primary endpoint was total weight loss in the 12-week time period. The mobile tool group lost four times as much weight compared with those undergoing 12 weeks of cardiac rehabilitation alone. This randomized controlled trial is the first in the US to look at how using mobile and wireless devices concurrently with cardiac rehab might improve health outcomes – and clearly demonstrates the power of patient engagement via digital platforms.

Additionally, social media sessions were included as part of the Annual Scientific Meetings academic programming. I was honored to chair and participate in the session alongside many distinguished colleagues. The session was well attended and each talk was delivered in a TED talk style format – emphasizing audience engagement, interaction, and story-telling. Slides contained images rather than charts, and each speaker shared real-world experiences and examples of social media and digital successes. Topics included the use of social media for connectivity, engagement, and innovation. The expanding use of mobile tools for the advancement of clinical trials was explored as well as issues surrounding direct patient engagement.

What does this all mean? The future of social media in medicine is limitless – it is my hope that in 2017, we add to the numbers of active healthcare providers on social media. Ultimately, engagement can only help the people that we are pledged to serve – our patients. Through embracing our digital future in medicine, we can improve outcomes, improve disease awareness and access to care, and provide new tools for disease management. Let’s all be part of the leading edge of the bell curve. As Rogers shows us in Diffusion of Innovations, we must be the early adopters, not the laggards, if we truly want to maximize success.