Although physicians and researchers dominate attendance at medical conferences, patients have always been welcome at many of these meetings. The move of most conferences to an online format during the pandemic has greatly increased the arrival of patients who may not have been able to travel or afford to attend previous meetings. In planning the upcoming virtual annual meeting of the European Alliance of Societies for Rheumatology (EULAR) 2021, the Scientific Program Committee took this into account, especially after attending patients last year, according to Loreto Carmona, MD, PhD, EULAR Scientific Program Committee Chair and Scientific Director of the Institute of Health Musculoskeletal system, Madrid, Spain. Although there was only 3 months left to switch from an in-person meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, to an all-online format, more than 20,000 people, including patients, attended last year, she said.
“It was unbelievable,” Carmona said. “We haven’t had such a patient community to participate in a conference like we did last year, and we expect the same this year.” Medscape Medical News. This participation played a role in inspiring its larger goal at this year’s meeting, to ensure that the four pillars of EULAR are represented: scientists, rheumatologists, health professionals who are not rheumatologists (such as nurses, physician assistants, therapists, etc.), and patients.
“I wanted to be a congress in which all these sects mingle,” said Carmona. She believes this year’s EULAR meeting could be the largest ever. The planning committee took care to incorporate feedback and other lessons from the first fully virtual conference in 2020. She said what people appreciate most is that they can go from room to room easily without having to walk around a large conference center and how easily they can navigate the abstract posters. The biggest drawback, not surprisingly, is the lack of interaction among the attendees.
“It was very difficult to put a reactive system in place in 3 months from scratch,” Carmona said. They have worked hard to provide plenty of opportunities for interaction this year, including a feature that allows attendees to click on their profile and search for people who share their research interests. In addition, Carmona is particularly looking forward to the many sessions that use an interactive format that was less common in previous meetings: debates.
“Debates are always very interesting and people like to see and defend different situations,” said Carmona. As part of the enhanced interaction this year, attendees will also be able to vote on what they think of the discussion questions before and after the discussions.
One debate focuses on the extent to which patient-reported findings are shared in the research. Other centers on publishing ethics and scientific behavior. The third arises from one of the many ways the epidemic has affected the practice of rheumatism: remote care.
“We have our society divided into people who love it and others say, ‘No, it’s impossible. We can’t work that way,'” said Carmona. Although some research will certainly focus on what scientists have learned over the past year about COVID-19, vaccines, and rheumatic diseases — including what little data is available about the effectiveness of vaccines for patients receiving immune-suppressing treatments — evidence is also mounting regarding the health care challenges and benefits of distance.
In a session given by Annette de Thorah, Ph.D., MPH, Associate Professor at Aarhus University Hospital, in Aarhus, Denmark, for example, attendees will hear what worked, what did not, and where the field needs more data when it comes to virtual rheumatology care. . De Thurah will present the findings of a systematic review of the evidence for remote care in rheumatology and discuss strategies for overcoming some of its challenges, such as clinical screening for rheumatic diseases and selecting the best tools for patient-reported symptoms.
“Sometimes it can be very difficult for patients to distinguish, for example, between a blink Rheumatoid arthritis And the in the spine In their hands Medscape Medical News. The success of virtual care in practices across Europe will also depend on what is best for the physician, especially the patient’s preferences and experiences. Some may worry, for example, about what they may miss when the patient is not physically present in the clinic.
“Communications are different when you have people in front of you,” said de Thorah. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing, of course, and I think it has to depend on patients’ desire.”
Carmona also emphasized that, as in past years and despite the virtual format, EULAR will offer sessions on practical skills, such as workshops on reading an MRI or creating good labels. In short, she stressed that regardless of who attends, she expects each of them to find something worthwhile at the conference.
“Whether you’re a scientist or a patient or a health professional, you’ll find something interesting, because we try to make all the sessions very cross-sectional,” said Carmona.
Carmona and de Thorah reported no relevant financial relationships.
European Federation of Societies for Rheumatology (EULAR) 2021 Annual Meeting.
Tara Healy is a freelance science journalist based in Texas who writes about medical research. Find it on @traheel.