Published 12/1/2011

Learning in the 21st century … it’s a whole new ballgame!

Daniel J. Berry, MD

New technology has always been an important part of orthopaedic surgery. Improvements in procedures with biologic approaches, new materials, techniques, devices, and instruments are geared to generating better outcomes for our patients. During the last decade, new technologies also have had a huge impact outside the operating room. The revolution in electronic technologies has completely transformed daily life, and now it is time to use those technologies to transform how we get orthopaedic information and stay up-to-date on our specialty.


The AAOS is proud of providing the best educational resources of any specialty in medicine, and has been investigating how to apply these new technologies to orthopaedic education and information gathering. The board of directors has held two workshops on emerging technologies (December 2010 and May 2011). A board Technology Project Team has been established, chaired by Mininder S. Kocher, MD, MPH, along with a corresponding staff technology project team led by Chief Education Officer Mark W. Wieting and Director of Information Services James Ogle. The project teams are charged with assessing the current status of technology at the AAOS, reviewing current and emerging technologies and devices, and determining how these technologies can help AAOS members.

During the workshops, the board identified the following areas as priorities for applying new technology to education:

  • Increasing the educational content and capabilities of the AAOS OrthoPortal—a single access point for orthopaedic information from many different sources
  • Building a web-based, personalized tracking system (“learning portfolio”) for members to keep up on their Maintenance of Certification (MOC) requirements
  • Developing apps for mobile devices for the AAOS Annual Meeting and orthopaedic information gathering
  • Developing educational content for tablet PCs and smart phones
  • Assessing the use of advanced private Internet networks as a cost-effective alternative to transmit certain AAOS course offerings around the world
  • Examining the possibility of holding “virtual meetings” at the Annual Meeting, enabling members who cannot attend to be “present” and participate in instructional courses, symposia, and podium presentations
  • Facilitating social networking and video sharing for members

Many of these initiatives are moving ahead quickly. Recently the AAOS OrthoPortal website, under the direction of William A. Grana, MD, MPH, added The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery–American (JBJS–A) to the available search options. Now, members have access not only to AAOS educational materials (Journal of the AAOS, Orthopaedic Knowledge Online, continuing medical education, videos, ebooks, and interactive multimedia), but also to all JBJS–A articles from 1960 through the present. Staff are also investigating the possibility of adding other orthopaedic and specialty journals to the AAOS OrthoPortal.

A recently approved new business plan for the AAOS OrthoPortal will support its expansion with ebooks, more surgical technique videos, mobile apps, and social media tools. Expanded online CME programs will help fellows meet American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery requirements for self-assessment, practice improvement, and lifelong learning. Partnerships with specialty societies and commercial publishers may further augment content on the OrthoPortal. An expanded patient education website and publishing arrangement will continue to attract patients and provide orthopaedic practices with reliable, customizable information.

The “learning portfolio” to track MOC requirements is also well underway. This initiative will enable you to confirm your recertification date and will serve as a repository for CME credits earned through the AAOS and many of the specialty societies. To ensure you meet MOC requirements, your AAOS learning portfolio will provide reminders of key dates in the process and information about educational opportunities to satisfy MOC requirements, tailored to your focus of practice.

The “apps” have it
Apps—software that runs on mobile devices such as tablet PCs or smart phones—are among the most popular new technologies. Suddenly it seems there is an app for everything, from viewing the Pyramids on GoogleEarth to reading AAOS Now or finding ICD diagnosis codes and CPT procedure codes with AAOS Code X X-Lite.

At the 2012 AAOS Annual Meeting in San Francisco—which I hope you will be able to attend—the “AAOS Mobile Meeting Guide” app will enable attendees with tablet PCs or smart phones to view or search scientific programming, technical exhibitor information, and local restaurants and attractions. A built-in mapping program will help get you to the scientific program on time, lead you to the appropriate meeting room, or show you the most direct route to an exhibiting company.

The “AAOS Mobile Meeting Guide” will also link you to webcasts of select symposia during the meeting. The webcasts will be released within hours after the live symposia and will be available for up to 3 months after the Annual Meeting on the AAOS website. They will be free to all members, so if you cannot attend a particular symposium (or the meeting itself), you can still participate and earn CME credit.

Audio technology being introduced at the 2012 Annual Meeting will enable you to listen to a narrative recorded by presenters of the 567 poster exhibits on display. An online “blog” will enable you to ask questions of the authors and get their responses, creating an on-going dialog. The poster area will feature workstations with tablet PCs where you can view ePosters and listen to the audio.

You might be interested to know about the “Kindle for iPad” app (which isn’t an AAOS development), which enables you to read a variety of Academy publications available for Kindle on an iPad. More than a dozen texts are now available. More apps are being considered.

Bringing us closer
Gerald R. Williams Jr, MD,
chair of the AAOS CME Courses Committee, is looking into how advanced ultrahigh bandwidth Internet can change the reach of AAOS courses. We all take pride in the reliable opinions, cutting-edge information, and superb quality of the AAOS courses held at the Orthopaedic Learning Center and elsewhere. An advanced fiber optic private network that transmits programming in real time would enable the Academy to link select sites around the world, providing educational programming for surgeons who can’t travel to a course. The result would be less time away from patients and practices and exposure to a wider range of viewpoints and approaches.

Next May, a test program will reach attendees in Chicago; Baltimore; San Francisco; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Mexico City. Lectures and panel discussions will originate from four of those sites (United States and Brazil). Attendees will be able to ask questions and dialogue with faculty at other sites, creating a highly interactive, “connected” experience.

Of course, all of these initiatives require time and funding. The AAOS Board of Directors has committed the necessary resources to keep us at the forefront of surgical education and maintain our position as the most forward-looking, dynamic medical specialty. Undoubtedly, as we work on new ideas some will prove more successful than others. And while the AAOS may not be able to do everything, whatever we do, we intend to do well, with your needs and your patients foremost in mind.