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A truck outside AAOS headquarters beamed the satellite feed from Rosemont, Ill., to Los Angeles and Cambridge, Mass.


Published 7/1/2008
Jennie McKee

Satellite course beams surgical expertise from coast to coast

‘Maximum impact, minimum time commitment’ cited as benefits

Satellite and Internet technology brought a unique learning experience to nearly 200 orthopaedic surgeons this past May. During a continuing medical education course (CME) sponsored by the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) and AAOS that was held simultaneously in three locations across the country, participants benefited from live presentations, surgical demonstrations, and question-and-answer sessions with total joint arthroplasty experts—without the hassles and time commitments of traveling far from home.

According to David G. Lewallen, MD, AAHKS president, and Daniel J. Berry, MD, AAHKS immediate past president, both of whom served as course directors, the demand for courses linked by satellite and Internet technology is likely to increase in the future. Judging by the popularity of this brand-new course, which attracted more than the expected number of participants, incorporating technology into CME courses creates an appealing learning opportunity for orthopaedists.

Technology works ‘exceptionally well’
Orthopaedists gathered at sites in Los Angeles, Rosemont, Ill., and Cambridge, Mass., to participate in the course, which explored topics such as hip resurfacing, unicompartmental knee arthroplasty, and techniques for treating infection and instability.

Live surgical demonstrations performed in the Orthopaedic Learning Center, located at AAOS headquarters in Rosemont, were transmitted to the Los Angeles and Cambridge locations. In addition, videoconferencing via the Internet allowed course directors and moderators to give real-time presentations and respond to participants’ questions. Local faculty teams at each site held small group sessions to maximize faculty-participant interaction.

“Holding a course in three sites posed a few challenges, but it was easier than we thought it would be, from the faculty standpoint,” said Dr. Berry. “Having faculty from three sites with different perspectives was beneficial.”

According to Dr. Berry, the technology enabled easy interaction among all course participants.

“People from all three sites could ask questions,” he said. “Because the back-and-forth was remarkably easy, those of us in Rosemont felt as though we were talking directly to people in Cambridge and Los Angeles.”

“The team at AAOS put a lot of planning into this course, and they really came through,” said Dr. Lewallen. “The technical support during the course was outstanding.”

Thomas P. Vail, MD, Los Angeles course director, was also impressed by the technology that linked the locations.

“It worked exceptionally well,” he noted. “We had a small video delay at one point, but the sound transmission, the satellite, and the presentations were all right on the mark.”

The Cambridge course director, William A. Jiranek, MD, echoed Dr. Vail’s positive assessment of the technology used during the course.

A truck outside AAOS headquarters beamed the satellite feed from Rosemont, Ill., to Los Angeles and Cambridge, Mass.
Participants at the Rosemont Orthopaedic Learning Center watch a surgical demonstration being transmitted via satellite to Los Angeles and Cambridge, Mass.
AAOS staff members in the control room monitor the video and audio feeds during the course.

“As with any switch to new technology, we can improve on some things; however, the video detail on the surgical demonstrations was quite good, and the video conferencing worked well,” he said.

Praise from participants
According to Dr. Vail, the participants “seemed delighted to have direct visual and voice access to surgical demonstrators in Rosemont and experts from across the country.”

Munir Ahmed, MD, and Juan Alfredo Carrillo, MD, course participants in Rosemont, confirmed Dr. Vail’s assertion.

“I thought the course was excellent,” said Dr. Ahmed. “It was very informative, and the video quality was good. Although there were a few problems with the audio, integrating three locations worked really well, and I expect it to continue to improve. I absolutely would attend another course like this.”

“Receiving input from three places simultaneously was very effective, in spite of the difficulties involved with the different time zones,” said Dr. Carrillo. “I enjoyed the experience greatly.”

Are satellite courses in your future?
According to Dr. Berry, courses that incorporate satellite and videoconferencing technology will continue to gain in popularity.

“I can see the potential for these courses for several reasons,” said Dr. Berry. “First of all, with the pressure on orthopaedic surgeons to stay close to their practices, satellite courses save time, reduce travel, and lessen hassles. This technology also has tremendous potential in international education because travel issues such as costs and availability of flights are far more significant overseas.”

Dr. Lewallen agreed.

“This course provided a very interesting and compelling model for the future,” he said. “The excellent attendance showed that these types of courses appeal to orthopaedic surgeons.”

Future courses may incorporate more sites and will maximize educational opportunities and CME credits, noted Dr. Jiranek, who added that hands-on skills labs at each teaching center may also be incorporated.

“I think this course is just the beginning,” said Dr. Vail. “Using this kind of technology allows participants to get maximum impact with minimum time commitment.”

Jennie McKee is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at mckee@aaos.org