Internal Medicine Meeting 2021 goes virtual

This year's Internal Medicine Meeting includes more than 125 virtual sessions of varying lengths, from bite-sized presentations to one-hour clinical sessions.


Since it takes two years to plan the scientific content of ACP's annual Internal Medicine Meeting, education staff and meeting committee members had no idea the COVID-19 pandemic was on its way when they developed it.

“We expected to be in Orlando and all of the magic that comes with that and physically gathering together. Obviously, things have changed,” said Patrick E. Young, MD, FACP, Chair of the 2021 Internal Medicine Scientific Program Committee.

After the pandemic hit in 2020, public health priorities led large in-person gatherings to be held online or to be canceled, as in the case of Internal Medicine Meeting 2020 last April. For 2021, the College pivoted to an all-virtual format that will stream live online.

Internal Medicine Meeting 2021: Virtual Experience runs from Thursday, April 29, through Saturday, May 1. On Thursday, the Opening Ceremony will feature a plenary lecture by Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. EDT. Other special guest plenary lectures will be presented on Friday and Saturday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. EDT, by Kimberly D. Manning, MD, FACP, and Rana Awdish, MD, FACP, respectively. Visit annualmeeting.acponline.org to register.

“Reconceiving the meeting into a virtual, synchronous event has been a massive undertaking,” said David Disbrow, ACP's Director of CME and Instructional Design. “But with the participation of new innovative teams and strong committee participation, we're quite excited about the transformation of ACP's high-quality clinical content presented in this virtual realm at such a large scale.”

The program includes more than 125 sessions of varying lengths, from bite-sized presentations to one-hour clinical sessions. The schedule was designed to ensure that there are topics in every time slot that will be of interest to physicians practicing in the outpatient setting, in the hospital, or in the subspecialties, said Mr. Disbrow. In addition, numerous sessions will encourage audience interaction using polling, live Q&A, or online chat.

New this year, more than 30 presentations will be offered during the 15-minute intervals between longer sessions. While most of the sessions are still 45 minutes long, these “microsessions” will fill in the gaps with a combination of content traditionally presented at larger scientific sessions, such as Multiple Small Feedings of the Mind, Current Clinical Guidelines, Annals of Internal Medicine Recent Articles, and hands-on content usually demonstrated in the Clinical Skills Center and at wellness exhibits.

“We were interested in increasing the diversity of content as much as possible in the virtual realm,” Mr. Disbrow said. “In the virtual world, microlearning has been a very strong theme, and certain topics can lend themselves to shorter presentations. We wanted to make the space for that.”

The microsessions fit in with the adult-learning model, especially during such hectic times, said Dr. Young. “We want to provide high-quality, practical, actionable, up-to-date education, while also being sensitive to the fact that in a virtual learning environment, people are not exactly able to learn the same. … They say the average adult has about a 17-minute attention span for any given setting, so these are opportunities to get the elixir of what you want to know,” he said.

While the Scientific Program Committee was able to maintain the vast majority of the content it originally planned, “We've also been agile and responded to ongoing and evolving needs that didn't really exist in 2019,” said Dr. Young, who is also director of the digestive diseases division at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md.

One of the most newly relevant sessions will cover the telemedicine exam. This aspect of practice became all-important during the pandemic and was even a “salutary byproduct” of COVID-19, Dr. Young said.

“I think most of us, like me, are doing a lot of telemedicine these days, and it's a shallow learning curve,” he said. “When you're doing video, I think the history taking is much the same, but the physical exam, obviously, when you're not there with the patient is a very different beast. … So I'm excited that we have something on the program this year to help people do them better.”

Dr. Young said other topics of interest this year include a clinical pharmacology session titled, “Cannabinoids: Where's the Green Light?” “When you look at the number of states where the use of marijuana and cannabinoids has become legal, or at least decriminalized, I think this is something that we're going to see a lot more of. So I think that's a session probably everybody should try to attend,” he said.

Other sessions Dr. Young recommended attending are “Climate Change and Its Impact on Health” and “The First (and Next) 100 Days: What's in Store for Health Care in Washington?” “You hear a lot about climate change, but you don't really hear about the health impacts of it. … And this being an election year and a change of administration, there might be some significant shifts in health care policy, which would impact us all,” he said.

This year's meeting, which will offer more CME credit and MOC points than ever before, features two registration packages. With standard registration, attendees have full access to the three-day meeting plus access to all sessions for 30 additional days, with the opportunity to earn up to 75 CME credits. Those who choose premium access receive extended access to all sessions for three years and 25 extra hours of exclusive clinical content.

“I think for a lot of people, a full-day session is tough in the virtual environment,” said Dr. Young. “If you get the premium package … you can learn at your own pace, which, having done this with several other meetings now, people have found that to be an enormous benefit for them.” More people than anticipated are choosing the premium package, Mr. Disbrow added. “I think at last count, 25% of registrants were opting for the premium.”

While experiencing the meeting through a screen won't be the same as gathering together in sunny Florida, attendees can look forward to a robustly rebuilt educational program, said Dr. Young. “Kind of like the Six Million Dollar Man, in many ways, we've rebuilt it bigger, faster, stronger. … I think people are going to be very pleased and excited with what we have to offer here coming up in April,” he said.