Aim: The Internet is an extremely powerful tool for the transmission of data and knowledge, and the question is whether this technology can be used effectively in continuing medical education. We present our experience with worldwide, web-based virtual symposia for practicing physicians.
Methods: The International Society for Holter and Noninvasive Electrocardiography (ISHNE) decided four years ago to conduct a series of cardiology-related educational activities for physicians utilizing a web-based approach. Six educational events under the format of virtual symposia were held on the Internet during the years 2002 to 2006. These Internet events included symposia on Brugada syndrome (2002), the long QT syndrome (2004), arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (2005), atrial fibrillation (2005), heart failure (2006), and sudden cardiac death (2006).
Results: During the past four years, there has been a dramatic and progressive increase in the number of physician registrants, the number of countries represented, and the number of lectures downloaded with each subsequent virtual symposium. For example, during the month of October 2006, the Internet-based sudden cardiac death symposium involved 14,087 physician registrants from 120 countries with 64,939 lectures downloaded. The top lecture was downloaded 11,251 times, and over 200 e-mail questions and replies were exchanged. The average time per visit to the web site was 12.5 minutes.
Conclusion: The progressively increasing numbers of physician registrants from around the world who participated in these web-based, virtual symposia suggest that this approach is answering an unmet professional educational need. This Internet approach adds an important, new, low-cost dimension to continuing medical education.