With continued uncertainty surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) has decided to hold its 2021 annual meeting 2 months later than originally scheduled.
The ACC 70th Annual Scientific Session in Atlanta (ACC.21) will be a hybrid format, with a planned in-person events, COVID permitting, and online learning. It will take place May 15 to 17, 2021. The original meeting dates were March 20 to 22, 2021.
“Obviously, like everybody, we’ve had a lot of concerns about the unpredictable nature of this pandemic and the challenge of trying to plan around it,” ACC President Athena Poppas, MD, told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.
“It made sense to push it off a bit and then an opportunity uniquely presented itself. The Georgia Convention Center had an opening and only one opening for the rest of 2021, and that was in May,” said Poppas.
The pandemic has made it necessary for many societies to look at virtual options for their annual meetings, and the success of these has begun to raise the question of whether this may be the way of the future. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC), for example, just wrapped up an all-virtual congress.
“ESC 2020: The Digital Edition” was a “massive record-breaking success,” Silvia Priori, MD, PhD, who served as chair of the congress program committee, told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.
“Last year, the ESC 2019 meeting took place in Paris and it attracted a record number of participants, with over 33,000 registered professionals,” Priori said. “With the digital edition this year, we had more than 116,800 registered members from 211 countries.”
Actual attendance was also “fantastic,” she said, with 80,303 unique viewers over the 4 days, “suggesting that registered members were actually going online and attending the meeting and downloading recorded presentations, documented by the 698,786 videos views.”
Interestingly, she said, the digital audience showed higher participation of young professionals; 57% of the audience consisted of people 40 years and younger. The congress also registered the highest-ever percentage of women.
“We consider the event a milestone in the concept of how to disseminate education to professionals worldwide,” Priori said.
Last March, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, ACC had to quickly transition its scientific session to a virtual/online-only format.
“We had just 2 weeks’ notice to go completely virtual, and that taught us that we can pivot quickly to fully online if things change. And as we’ve seen, things can change with a couple of weeks’ notice,” Poppas explained.
“One thing we have learned is that there is a hunger and a need for more online learning,” she said.
With virtual offerings, many more clinicians and researchers can, and do, participate, she noted. In a typical year, the ACC annual scientific session gets 15,000 to 20,000 attendees. ACC.20 attracted more than 60,000 people from more than 100 different countries, Poppas said.
In addition to the ability to reach more people, Poppas said, it’s becoming clear that some people learn better doing things in “bite sizes and at their own pace, when and where they want to learn. A hybrid model supports that.”
“For the future, it will be necessary to be creative and move toward innovative modalities for educational conferences,” Priori added.
“My personal view is that the in-person meetings remain important for promoting collaborations and exchange of opinion, experience, and innovation,” she said. “However, the digital component allows us to reach out to professionals who have difficulty in attending in-person events.”
A Twitter poll conducted by theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology during ESC 2020 found strong support for the digital format, with slightly more respondents (45.5% of 88 votes) saying virtual “is the future” of meetings than saying you “can’t beat a live meeting” (43.2%).
ESC 2021 is scheduled to take place in London, from August 28 to September 1, 2021.