Sleep Medicine Conferences Change Plans During COVID-19 Pandemic
As countries around the world continue in their efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, medical conference organizers are faced with the additional challenge of finding a safe way to present new research and provide continuing education to those on the frontlines of the pandemic. Unfortunately, there is no option for some events, such as this year’s meeting of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), which has already been cancelled. But other meetings, such as the national SLEEP conference, are now using online platforms for a virtual experience in place of a gathering. Due to safety concerns, limited transportation, and other problems related to the current health crisis, most conferences are given three choices: postponing, canceling, or reorganizing as an online event. The use of technologies such as live video conferencing, interactive forums, and other web-based tools allows organizers to make the most of a difficult and unprecedented situation, giving medical professionals access to new research and developments as they fight to save lives and provide better care across a wide range of disciplines.
A significant number of medical conferences have already been canceled due to the coronavirus, including meetings of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Thoracic Society (ATS), while others, such as the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (WCLC), have postponed events until after the summer. But many organizations are choosing to explore alternative methods of presentation online, such as the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which began its virtual conference on April 27. At the date of this publication, the organizers of SLEEP 2020, the largest sleep medicine conference in the U.S., have completed their “contingency plans” and have developed a platform to support, in their words, “a high quality, virtual SLEEP 2020.”
SLEEP is a national event that is international in scope, drawing large crowds of sleep medicine professionals to share their current research and learn about new innovations in the field. Organized by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS), a network of specialists from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS), SLEEP presents some of the most cutting-edge research and technologies in sleep medicine and other related disciplines. Back in March, sleep specialists around the world began to announce plans for presenting their research at this year’s SLEEP conference, scheduled to be held this June in Philadelphia. But as travel restrictions, quarantines, and other measures were soon put in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many of those scheduled to attend began to change their plans.
Despite the escalation of social-distancing restrictions and other safety measures throughout the world, the APSS stated in March that the SLEEP conference was still scheduled for the second week of June as planned, but the organizers promised to continue monitoring the situation and provide updates in the following weeks. In a more recent statement posted on the APSS website on April 9, the group announced that a final decision would be made on or before May 13, a month before the meeting was scheduled to start. The decision, announced on May 12, has been to proceed with a virtual SLEEP meeting on August 27-30, roughly two months later than the initial event date. originally planned. As the statement explains, the decision was based on guidance from both national and local public health officials. “Attendee safety remains the number one priority,” the statement read. APSS managers also extended the cancellation deadline for exhibitors until the same day, May 13, assuring attendees that If the event was cancelled, all registration fees would be refunded in full. It was in the April 9 statement that the APSS first suggested an alternative “virtual SLEEP 2020” platform that could allow them to showcase the material without having to cancel or postpone the event. A major challenge for the organizers is balancing the need for SLEEP attendees to remain safe in their homes while still allowing the event to serve its purpose as a forum for the advancement of sleep medicine, something that could potentially improve public health standards throughout the world and for generations to come.
A Virtual Conference
Rather than a compromise, many event organizers are viewing online platforms as an opportunity to allow audiences to experience the event in their own way and at their own convenience. More than likely, this will be more common in the future as professionals recognize the benefits of reducing travel expenses and other costs associated with large gatherings, especially when there are health risks or other dangers involved. There is no reason to cancel an important event when the most significant aspect of the conference, the information exchanged through the presentation of research, can still be conducted online. This year’s SLEEP meeting, for example, includes presentations by top professionals in the field of sleep medicine, with subjects ranging from “New Techniques of OSA treatment” to “Trends in Sleep Medicine” and “New Insights and Opportunities from Computational Approaches.” Researchers have planned all year to present these findings, and in some cases, cancelling or postponing could reduce the timeliness of the material, making it less relevant (and likely already published) by the time it is presented in a public forum.
While a virtual format does not allow the face-to-face interactions and observations that make conferences like SLEEP a social as well as a professional event, attendees can still share contact information and speak to one another in real time using video calls. And rather than observing the latest products and services that are normally showcased in the event’s exhibit hall, viewers can make use of interactive 3-Dimensional renderings that allow them to adjust the focus and position of the items. In this way, the meeting’s main events can be presented to the public in time to make a difference when it counts, when the ideas are still new, novel, and innovative. During a health crisis that affects both sleep and breathing, events like SLEEP 2020 could not be more important, and a “virtual” online version of the event will likely succeed in broadcasting the information to a larger audience and over a longer period of time.
AADSM.org – https://www.aadsm.org/
AASM.org – https://aasm.org/
AASM.org – Statement – https://aasm.org/apss-statement-covid-19-sleep-2020/
APSS Statement – https://www.sleepmeeting.org/apss-statement-coronavirus-covid-19/
Medpagetoday.com – https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/85261
SLEEP Annoncement – https://www.sleepmeeting.org/apss-statement-coronavirus-covid-19/
SLEEP Schedule – https://www.sleepmeeting.org/schedule/
Sleepmeeting.org – General – https://www.sleepmeeting.org/
Sleep Research Society – https://www.sleepresearchsociety.org/