This year I had to miss the Annual Scientific Sessions of the American heart Association #AHA18 due to a recent addition to the family. Through the generosity of the American Heart Association and the Early Career Blogging Program, I was offered an opportunity to be able to participate “virtually” in the meeting through Live Streaming and was offered a complimentary pass for streaming specific sessions. I gleefully excepted the offer and made full use of it over the weekend of the meeting intermittently between sessions. I had envisioned attending a meeting of this nature in the past when I had written a prior blog post on Cardioexchange.com in 2014. It seems a wonderful idea to be able to assimilate all the knowledge on offer from the comfort of one’s home. This year at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2018, I intended to fully experience and ‘test drive’ such a opportunity.
Just based on back of the envelope calculations, attending a meeting remotely is definitely a more cost efficient and pragmatic option. The ‘Sessions OnDemand’ was available for $299 (for the online-only version) and $399 for those requiring recorded sessions on a hard drive. When compared against the full registration fee, usual airfare on the weekend, at least a night’s hotel stay at premium rates at the time of a national conference, and add-in some commuting and ancillary expenses – it all adds up to significantly higher expenses compared with the remote access options, and it would have been a no-brainer if the remote options offered a comparable experience. And with the dwindling healthcare dollars everywhere, more and more programs are streamlining the educational benefits and leaves extended to fellows and early career professionals for attending conferences.
However in its current form, I think the remote option still has a fair bit of catching up to do with the live attendance format. While the streaming for individual presentations were quiet spot on and seamless, the options for discussing the same were limited. There was a ‘pop-up’ window to ask questions of panels/presenters, but the couple of questions I posed remained unanswered or unclear if the panelist/presenter even viewed them. For the “bigger” presentations like the Late-Breaking Clinical Trials or the new guideline releases, the sheer energy and ambiance of a room full of learned audience was also lacking. And of course the opportunities of networking in person, grabbing a coffee with a prospective collaborator, and plain-and-simple catching up with friends and ex-colleagues had to be passed on. Add on the fact that one’s study at home is hardly sacrosanct from interruptions from a young family! So, while the remote meeting at present has a cost-effective alternative, probably the experience of attending a live meeting especially for a relatively recent graduate/early career professional has yet to be matched by the virtual experience.