1 September 2017

GPDU comes out to play

Education Social Media

Australia’s largest online GP peer support and learning community will launch its inaugural conference, GPDU18, in May next year.

Following in the footsteps of its emergency clinician and paediatrician social-media cousins, SMACC (Social Media and Critical Care and DFTB (Don’t Forget the Bubbles), GPs Down Under is moving its peer support, learning and advocacy social media GP community phenomenon into full-engagement swing on the Gold Coast.

SMACC, DFTB and GPDU are grassroots doctor movements, all started on social media by small dedicated groups, all sharing common goals of free, open access to education, peer support and advocacy, all largely through the utility and connectivity of social media. And all have grown gangbusters over the past few years.  They have all now moved to face-to-face engagement in order to broaden and deepen their community ties.

In the case of SMACC, its conference quickly became a phenomenon which caught the attention of critical-care doctors the world over. The SMACC conference isn’t your average medical conference. It’s single stream in an amphitheatre, and eash session is a new engagement experience, ranging from two New York emergency care specialists arguing from their armchairs over a controversial resuscitation method, to doctors playing out simulations on stage, to highly engaging keynotes, panels, streams from overseas and the like.

DontForgetTheBubbles.com, is now an  internationally recognised online resource that specialises in providing up-to-date medical education to the entire spectrum of clinicians caring for children. It just completed its first meeting last week, DFTB17, to much acclaim from the attendees.

Asked if we can expect the same sort of fun and engagement at GPDU18, one of the event organisers and a GPDU moderator, Kat McLean, laughs and says, “that’s the idea”.

“There has been an intense desire of our members for a while now to meet in person and move from the virtual to the real world in our relationships,” she told The Medical Republic.

But while the primary objective of this first meeting is simply for members who talk online to meet personally, Dr McLean and her co-moderators have a broader aim for GPDU in putting on a live event.

“GPDU, as a Facebook group, is serving a  very specific function for general practitioners. But  if you look at movements like FOAMed (Free Online Access to Medical Eduation), SMACC and a myriad of emerging social media-based healthcare groups, there is a broader engagement opportunity for general practice in having an event where members from GPDU can interact in person with all aspects of their profession and bring their experiences in peer support and learning online through GPDU to the broader community that they interact with.”

In this respect, like SMACC, the organisers of GPDU will be opening up the conference to the spectrum of professions engaged with on a day-to-day basis, including nurse practitioners, allied health groups, social workers, community care groups and so on.

Asked whether she thought that another conference might be stretching things a bit on the resource and time side for GPs, Dr McLean said the meeting was really at the behest of members who wanted to make the transition from virtual to face to face, but that GPDU would be doing all it could to make the conference accessible in terms of location, access and pricing.

” We aren’t aiming to make a profit, build empires or push anyone out. We just want to get members together so we share our experiences live, and share them with other groups we think may benefit from how great the connectivity, support and learning opportunities are using simple social-media tools like Facebook,” she said.

“I met a fellow administrator who I’ve been communicating online with last night at an education event for the first time in person, and it’s honestly like catching up with a long-lost best friend. In person you connect on a different and deeper level. I think all these social-media groups are realising that rounding their groups out with meetings is a really important part of their identity.”

GPDU moderator and one of the founders, Karen Price, has told The Medical Republic in the past that the original reason to start the group was to make peer support and rapid learning much easier for doctor friends who were struggling with the restrictions of policies, regulations and older technologies in some of the larger doctor organisations.

GPDU must have hit a nerve in some respect. In the past three years it  has grown rapidly to have approaching 5,000 members, and in terms of doctor-to-doctor engagement levels, it is among the most engaged professional online network in the world.

What does it do with all this emerging influence?

The GPDU organisers and moderators are very clear that they want to help the community in any way they can and they think that is by facilitating networking, education and peer support, where it is lacking in some of the more formal doctor groups, but not competing with them.

Dr Price loves to liken GPDU to a national park where, “There is a strong desire … to unite the RACGP, RNZCGP, ACRRM, RDAA and non-vocationally registered doctors. This is a unique space and one that has been expressly stated in many ways on GPDU,” she told TMR earlier this year.

Technology is changing culture, of course, and that part is the digital disruption to traditional structures and work flows.

“We are pitched [sometimes] as revolutionary or competitive but within this community, radicalisation is just altruism and love for our profession, our patients and our colleagues. Free (as much as possible) from graft. That’s the part I think many find hard to understand.

“A national park means that everyone is welcome. Unity. Peaceful co-existence and respect for the environment.”

If you are interested in attending GPDU18 you can register your interest and reserve a ticket (with no obligation) by CLICKING HERE. The event will be held at a location to be announced next week, on the Gold Coast, from May 30 through to June 1.

Anyone interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the event can email Jeremy at [email protected] (call 0405128867), or Frazer at [email protected]

Mark it in your diary. Should be fun.