Off Script: Connecting and Collaborating in the Global Village of Interventional Cardiology

We, as cardiologists, increasingly link up in the hyper-connected world of Twitter and Facebook: we must understand the new rules of engagement.

One of the great joys of interventional cardiology is the opportunity to work with our hands to solve challenging, multifaceted problems.  We are at our cores craftsmen, and one of the best parts of attending meetings is the opportunity to watch each other work in real time during Live Cases.  The joy of this is accentuated, running commentary provided by the convened expert panels, during which the combined experience of the group is tapped into for our education.  These interactions lead to the progressive, evolutionary improvement in our collective procedural expertise and elevate the level of care we are able to provide for our patients.

In the era of hyper-connectivity, Google gratification, and instant audio-visual feeds, much of modern learning occurs over the web and I have learned much over the years reviewing live case discussions from archives of meetings.  While I was in Asia a few weeks ago, I was privileged to meet and be invited to join a private Asian WhatsApp chat group of an interventional community and have been struck by the gregarious sharing of cases, procedural tips, and methods of dealing with complications.  These spontaneous groups which have sprouted up in the fertile bed of social media across the planet have done much to advance our craft in the last decade as we all plug in, commiserate, and support each other in equal measures.

A fascinating session was hosted this afternoon by the self-designated Twitterati of interventional cardiology social media, discussing the potential scope of influence, pitfalls, and methods of navigating this complex, fickle world of interconnectivity.  Despite the benefits of meeting in person with colleagues from near and far at meetings such as this, our connections and collaborations are increasingly via our multiple personas – warm-fleshed me, Facebook me, Instagram me, Twitter me (asleep for years, but soon to be resurrected based on this afternoon’s discussions), WhatsApp me, and for my friends in China, WeChat me.  

As healthcare professionals, our public presence comes with a need to recognize our need for social responsibility and content management.  In this new digital age, we have to be aware of and possibly redefine our rules of engagement.  First and foremost among these paradigms is the protection of our patients in our discussions.  We share cases to learn but must understand what constitutes consent by our patients, what responsibilities we have to the institutions we represent, to ourselves, and if we should modulate our suggestions in shared forums given the potential reach of these platforms.  Should such discussions only occur within the confines of private groups?  What is the appropriate level of de-identification?  Will the standards be universal globally?  Much work remains.

On the flip side, this connectivity gives us vastly increased reach and scale to potentially explosively and instantaneously propagate ideas.  The factors that dictate the viral spread are being studied, and interesting results were hinted at today in an “Intention-to-Tweet” randomized trial on the impact of a journal article as it is released.  Tantalizingly, there also appears to be an association with online engagement and the articles’ citations, although it is unclear if this is mostly cause or effect.  To help understand these phenomena we will need to learn how to quantify, monitor, and respond to data-streams such as those driven by “tag ontology” which generate visual engagement maps, categorizable by geography and demographics.

Confused?  Bewildered?  Apprehensive?  

As with all sweeping change, yes, but I am mostly excited as I join ranks with this Global Interventional Cardiology Village.  Let’s connect.

Kwan S Lee, MD is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Sarver Heart Center, University of Arizona.  As interventional…

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