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[Feature] Medical societies shift to online conferences in light of COVID-19[Our lives after coronavirus pandemic ①] Conference organizers choose web meeting rather than delaying them 
  • By Kim Yun-mi
  • Published 2020.03.30 14:30
  • Updated 2020.03.30 14:30
  • comments 0

More than two months have passed since Korea reported the first case of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). With the virus still spreading around the globe and Korea, people are adapting to the new normal in the infectious disease-hit era. Korea Biomedical Review is publishing a series of two articles on how the medical and pharmaceutical industries brace for a long-term battle against COVID-19 and create new ways of living. -- Ed.

Medical societies at home and abroad, which had canceled or delayed annual conferences in the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, changed their strategies to hold the events on the internet.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) first moved to hold the virtual conference, World Congress of Cardiology (WCC), from Saturday to Monday.

“No one expected that a global pandemic would force the first-ever cancellation of an ACC Annual Scientific Session,” ACC said on its homepage. “This was absolutely the right decision given the need for cardiovascular clinicians around the world to be on the front lines helping patients and their communities address COVID-19.”

ACC has worked to create a virtual experience using new technologies and educational formats to bring “ACC.20/WCC science and education directly to cardiovascular clinicians and other key stakeholders worldwide,” the group said.

The free-of-charge virtual conference provided online access to 23 education sessions, including keynotes, Young Investigator Awards, and late-breaking clinical trials.

The ACC’s move prompted the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to follow suit. ASCO recently announced that it would replace the face-to-face conference, scheduled for late May in Chicago, with an online one.

Due to the spread of COVID-19, the ASCO board has concluded that it would be difficult for researchers around the world to participate in the offline meeting, the society said. Instead, the ASCO would share the latest cancer research with the global community using a virtual format, it said.

Kim Hong-bin (second from right on the table), a professor of internal medicine at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH), hosts a webinar of the Gyeonggi Province COVID-19 Emergency Response Task Force on Thursday.

In Korea, the Korean Diabetes Association said it would hold an online conference in early May, for the first time among local medical societies.

"In the face of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic that threatens global health, local and international academic events are all being canceled. To actively cooperate with the Korean government’s efforts, KDA decided to nullify the in-person spring-season conference,” the association said.

The KDA emphasized that academic exchanges must continue, despite the active practicing of social distancing. “We decided to take this crisis as an opportunity to become the first local academic society to hold a conference online,” it added.

Sharing COVID-19 treatment experience online

Physicians battling COVID-19 are also using webinars, short for web seminars, to share experiences of treating COVID-19 patients. Webinars enable real-time or interactive multimedia presentations on the web.

Doctors working in state-designated wards treating COVID-19 patients are accumulating related data but facing temporal and special limitations to share their experiences and seek better treatment.

The Korean response to COVID-19 is drawing the world’s attention, and local doctors are using webinars to relay the knowledge to their peers around the globe.

The Gyeonggi Province COVID-19 Emergency Response Task Force held the first “COVID-19 Webinar in Gyeonggi” on Thursday to share confirmed cases of the province and treatment experiences.

Kim Hong-bin, a professor of internal medicine at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH), led the webinar where Professor Kim Jong-heon of Sungkyunkwan University College of Medicine, Internal Medicine Chief Koh Bo-ram at Gyeonggi-do Medical Center Anseong Hospital, and SNUBH Pulmonary Department Professor Cho Young-jae presented epidemiologic characteristics of COVID-19, clinical characteristics of patients with mild symptoms, and progress and treatment of severe patients.

Over 200 healthcare professionals logged on to the webinar simultaneously to join the discussion. Some were from the U.S. and Fiji.

“Although we haven’t been able to analyze the data gathered in Gyeonggi Province sufficiently, we would like to share what we have experienced in the past two months together and difficulties at clinical sites,” SNUBH Professor Kim said. “If you have any good ideas to help overcome this situation, we want to reflect those in clinical sites.”

Closing the webinar, Kim noted that the online meeting with over 200 participants simultaneously accessing the website did not create any glitch.

He added that participants would be able to take off their masks when joining the webinar next time.

Myongji Hospital also held two sessions of a web conferencing on “Korea’s Practical Experience on COVID-19 Situation” on Wednesday and Thursday, at the request of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

The webinar gathered 1,359 government officials and other disaster specialists from 161 countries.

Myongji Hospital Chairman Lee Wang-jun, who also heads the working group of the Korean Hospital Association’s new coronavirus emergency response headquarters, summarized the nation's COVID-19 progress and response in four strategies during his presentation titled "Trace test treating COVID-19 in Korea.”


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