As physicians and other healthcare professionals become more technologically adept, hospitals are looking for ways to expand and enhance their educational efforts by using some of the new tech toys that have become available in recent years.
For example: “Our strategic plan includes finding ways to get medical content out to the medical community and to the healthcare consumer,” says Doug Young, network media specialist with the education arm of the Charleston Area Medical Center, a three-hospital system in West Virginia. His group started off with satellite broadcasting, but once the Internet started literally and figuratively gaining speed, they wanted to deliver that information using the Web. It began with a Web site, he says, then, “we decided that since video was becoming more viable via broadband, we'd begin doing media-rich content delivery,” otherwise known as live webcasting.
In late 2002, they purchased Mediasite Live, a media webcasting and Web presentation system from Sonic Foundry, Madison, Wis. “We had been using hosted services, but they were cumbersome and difficult, and they didn't fit well with the way things go in,” says Young. And it could get expensive to use a hosted service, especially since CAMC archives much of its webcasting content as enduring materials. “That's where the bang for your buck comes in,” says Young, adding that although they may just get 10 or 15 people to attend the live webcast, they later get 300 to 400 hits on the archived material as the news of the program spreads.
“This system, which we can transport between our broadcast locations on a cart, also makes it more cost-effective because it allows us to reuse our content without costing us more every time we need to archive a program, unlike hosted services.”
Programs are free, unless healthcare professionals want credit. To get credit, they can download post-tests and forms from the webcast site to fill out and fax or mail in to receive CME credit — something CAMC has been seeing more of over the past year.
Is there any downside? “We got a little ahead of ourselves on the delivery side,” explains Young of the now archaic-seeming approach of using fax or mail to apply for CME credit. “Now we're working on finding a company toour pre-registration and e-commerce functions,” which he says he expects to have in place by the end of the second quarter of 2004.
CAMC is also, to some degree, a victim of its own success, particularly with its free consumer programs. These “Mini Med School” webcasts run twice annually and include multiple physicians talking about the full gamut of issues involved in heart disease, diabetes, and other healthcare issues of concern to the general public. Even though CAMC doesn't really advertise them beyond a notice in the local papers, a live Mini Med School webcast CAMC ran on thyroid disease drew approximately 350 people. The rub is that CAMC has only enough bandwidth to accommodate 30 at a time. On Young's plate for 2004 is to find a contractor that can guarantee enough bandwidth to handle larger volumes of users.
“We do probably a dozen programs a month, plus audioconferences and other things that aren't live but are just posted to the site,” says Young. “Our system was delivered in early November 2002, and we've been using it hot and heavy ever since.”