Conference calling – by Andy Broomhead
A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first-ever diabetes conference. I’d been asked to attend the Association of Children’s Diabetes Clinicians (hereafter ACDC for the sake of my typing) 10th annual conference, and deliver a workshop on “Using Social Media to Improve Patient Care”.
I’d never been to a conference of any kind before so I was very excited at the prospect of it all, though that was somewhat offset by speaker’s nerves!
The day was split roughly into four sections; three presentation sessions (each with two topics), and a workshop session at the end of the day. I’d arrived in plenty of time and spent the first hour and a half setting up my workshop and having a dry run.
I’d practised a LOT at home in the run up to the day, but I felt a lot better having tested all my slides (and checked all my timings) in the room I was going to actually be speaking in.
Satisfied I’d calmed my nerves enough, I went in search of coffee (and biscuits!) before heading into the second of the three presentation sessions. I’ve followed a fair few conferences on Twitter before, so it felt like it was my turn to give others that opportunity. Plus, it’s not much good running a workshop on social media if you’re not going to live tweet the conference.
The first speaker was Dr Roman Hovorka from Cambridge University, talking about Closed Loop Systems for people with diabetes. It was fascinating to hear how even a small study had showed that individuals using a closed loop overnight had shown an improvement in blood glucose variability, and a reduction in overnight hypos.
Next up was Prof. Katherine Barnard talking about the psychosocial impact of new diabetes technologies. This presentation really gave me a lot to think about. Diabetes technology has moved on at incredible rate over the last few years (pumps, CGM, Libre etc.) but I don’t think any of us stop to think if we’re ready for the impact that technology has on our lives.
I generally think that the more informed we are, the more potential we have to manage diabetes effectively (and I suspect that effect is magnified for parents of children with diabetes). But whilst we often get training and support on how to use new devices, we’re less well equipped to understand what it will mean to us psychologically.
An example that Prof. Barnard gave was, as a parent, being able to remotely monitor your child’s blood glucose levels. But if you do that from 20 miles away, how does it make you feel if you see a huge hypo that you’re not there to help manage?
I have no doubt that technology will help us all improve our lives (with or without diabetes) but Prof. Barnard made a hugely compelling case for ensuring we understand the impact it will have on us before we take it home with us.
At this point we had lunch and a welcome chance to recharge batteries (mobile phone and self). Live tweeting a conference is a lot harder than it looks. The speed at which the speakers move through the material, and the way they make incredibly complex ideas look effortless is quite astounding. As an aside, based on a very small sample size, I can confirm that conference lunches are excellent.
After lunch there were further talks from Prof. David Dunger (Cambridge) on Macrovascular Risk Factors in Childhood Diabetes, and a particularly interesting and engaging presentation from Dr Peter Adolfsson (Gothenberg) on the use of CGM in routine care.
The latter session really raised some interesting questions that I’d not really considered before. In Sweden, CGM is typically offered before pump therapy – the idea being that you understand what the CGM tells you and then pumps are introduced at a later date if they’re deemed necessary. I think the advent of the FreeStyle Libre has made the idea of CGM a lot more appealing to many people, but I’m not sure how many of us (myself included), really understand enough about it. I wrote a fairly open ended blog about it for Diabetes UK back in October.
So finally it was time for my workshop. I was told beforehand that around 1% of paediatric diabetes clinicians use Twitter so there was a bit of pressure on me to do a convincing job of selling the benefits of the Diabetes Online Community to those that had chosen my session.
Overall I think it was quite well received. There was some caution around the potential pitfalls of using social media for patient care, but I’m hopeful I did a good job of persuading them it definitely has its benefits. This is the slide that I used to wrap up my presentation:
Before the workshop, I’d run a short survey, asking members of the DOC for their opinions on social media. Coupled with that, I was looking at how, generally speaking, people who are more active advocates of their own care, tend to experience better outcomes than people who are passive recipients of healthcare.
The survey I ran asked people if they felt more confident in managing their diabetes as a result of using social media, and whether they believed that had better outcomes as a result. I then split that into two – comparing people who said they used social media actively vs passively. Hopefully you find the results convincing too.
My first experience of a diabetes conference was an incredibly positive one. I felt like I learned a LOT from some incredibly knowledgeable people, and I hope I convinced a few of them, that hanging out online, talking about our diabetes experiences makes a real difference.