23 January 2018

Beyond ‘one patient, one doctor, one room’

General Practice Social Media

Why would you go to a conference organised by a bunch of (albeit professional) Facebook friends whose initial objective was simply to meet in person?

The inaugural GPs Down Under conference on the Gold Coast from May 30 to June 1 was launched by its organisers with a very simple objective in mind.

To get the members of the Facebook learning, peer support and advocacy group to meet each other in person.

But as with its cousin social media doctor conferences, SMACC (Social Media and Critical Care) and DFTB (Don’t Forget the Bubbles – An alternative Paeds gathering), GPDU18 is getting a life of its own beyond that initial objective.

Says moderator and one of the program facilitors, Tim Leeuwenburg, “it’s a chance to connect, to celebrate and to regale in a festival theme of peer-support, advocacy and education via FOAMed…”

FOAMed stands for Free Online Access Medical Education, something the GPDU community strongly supports as a significant alternative to much of the sponsored medical education on offer to GPs, and to some of the paid commercial CPD events.

As if to emphasise that this isn’t going to be your normal medical conference fare moderator Dr Karen Price says that “lecturns will be banned, as will death by powerpoint”.

Says Dr Kate Kloza, who will be speaking at the meeting about generalised medicine in the context of an extreme environment, such as Antarctica, where she currently works, GPDU18 is about “engagement and connection of all participants, rather than a single presenter lecturing.”

“It’s also celebrating the diversity of GP practice in Australia and NZ, connecting colleagues, and reducing the isolation of one patient, one doctor, one room,” she told TMR.

Dr Kat McLean, another of the GPDU moderators, says that the conference is deliberately trying to alter the learning environment by using more creative presentation formats, and by shifting the learning space where they can to encourage engagement. Some sessions will be held on the outside lawns, some at night time under the stars, and one, apparently, on the clinical topic of the evidence base surrounding nasty marine animals, will be held at the beach. Surfs up.

Doctor conferencing 101 suggests that a good conference has lots of streams, many of them academic, and hardcore CPD is a must. The theory has been that if you’re paying and taking time off, it’s ideal that you get some return in terms of getting your CPD done.  So in most bigger conferences there will be a lot of high and low level CPD available. A few birds, one stone. All sensible.

GPCE, the commercial conference offering by Reed Exhibitions, headlines this years capital city tour of its long running event as being “jam packed with more ALMs, more clinical education sessions, more practical skills workshops and more product showcases.” Their big hook is to offer 90 CPD points over one weekend.

But is the heavy emphasis on CPD and getting a lot done in a short time really what GPs are looking for in 2018?

With significant changes to the 2017-19 learning curriculum by the RACGP, most notably the introduction of PLAN, which requires GPs to do 40 of their 130 points with the college, some emphasis is coming away from attending meetings just to knock over most of your CPD requirements. A lot of points can now be done at smaller more interesting conferences and doing self-directed activities.

After ticking off your College conference, you probably have much of your CPD done, given PLAN.

GPDU18 has CPD, but you’d hardly know in their marketing. It’s about content, connecting, realising the value of the information your peers can teach you, and fun, if you listen to the program committee.

Dr Price says that a key differentiator of GPDU18 is that the program committee wants it to be a gathering where GPs, registrars and their allied health partners do the talking – not researchers, academics, specialists or other consultants.

“Of course, the research you get in a lot of conferences isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not really day-to-day useful for us. It’s not ‘in production’ so to speak. We can’t take it and use it next week when we leave the conference,” says Dr Price.

Dr Price adds that focussing on the talent and creativity that exists in the rank and file of grass roots GPs is an important objective of the meeting.

If you are wondering what the presentation formats the program committee might be alluding to, check some of them out and some of the session topics at www.gpdu.com.au . It includes “cage fights”, “ignite sessions” “Sim sessions”, “pecha kuchas”, “abstract abstracts”, “rants” and “on the chaise lounge with …”.

I had the opportunity to experience most of these formats at last year’s SMACC conference in Berlin.

If you’re interested, here is my take on what they actually are:

  • Rant: a five-minute rant from a concerned and usually, involved, doctor or other health professional, on a topic of controversy – usually one that has just been discussed in a panel or ignite session.
  • Cage Fight: a 20 minute debate (sometimes a little more animated) on a topic of vital importance, clinical or otherwise to the profession, two teams of about three people each. Example topic: Is Healthcare Homes just indentured servitude?
  • Ignite session: Just an alternative name for a great plenary with a hot speaker, but with a Twitter moderator and questions at the end from the crowd.
  • SIM: simulation of a critical situation in practice, complete with bad actors (eg, a dangerous patient)
  • On the Chaise Lounge: Interview with a key industry figure: eg, Tim Kelsey, the head of the Australian Digital Health Agency, with Twitter moderated crowd questions.
  • Pecha Kucha: This I love. It’s 20 slides, 20 seconds each on a submitted topic. For GPDU18, all sorts of people are submitting. Best five get to present. Others are all published anyway – lots of fun and involves everyone. Everyone coming can get involved in this format, and the abstract abstract format (I will leave that one to you to work out).

Are you getting a picture here?

GPDU18 isn’t targeting what the other important conferences do well already.

The RACGP and RMA conferences are both must-attends for their own reasons: they’re comprehensive, have lots of category one and two CPD which is accessible, have a very wide topic choice with up to nine streams at the RACGP event, and you get a great insight into where the College is at, if you’re a member.

That’s not GPDU.

And neither is GPDU what you get at the commercially run “for-profit” conferences for GPs. The attraction of these events are that they are low cost and have highly concentrated CPD programs.But GPs at low cost has a price. Such conferences have a  lot of sponsored content. Sponsors pay to speak. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but GPDU made a firm decision to steer well clear of content being influenced in any way by sponsors.

GPDU has a part of its constitution that no sponsor can pay to present, speak or have content promoted at its events.

Learning is a core value of GPDU.  But between formalised CPD, FOAMed, informal learning sessions, and, of course, peer-to-peer learning over social media, GPDU is trying to disrupt the very idea that medical conferencing and learning can be a chore not fun or engaging.

GPDU18 tickets are HERE. Use the code GPDU1810 until February and you will be able to come to all three days of the conference for just $617 plus GST.

Declaration of Relationship:

The Medical Republic, of which I am the publisher, is the organiser for GPDU18.  After my last piece on the conference one alert, and possibly cynical, observer commented that the piece was an advertisement, not news. I replied (politely), that “news is something someone, somewhere doesn’t want published”. I’ll leave that to you to figure out. Notwithstanding, as a publisher who believes strongly in supporting grass roots general practice as an important objective of our business, I’m very happy to be supporting the GPDU18 initiative, whether by advertisement or otherwise.