Continuing education: overarching cooperation is necessary

Medical science and technology are growing. This holds not only true for the demand of medical services that an ever-aging and evermore wealthy population has from healthcare systems. Theoretical and practical knowledge are growing, too. Thus, healthcare staff has to keep up to date regarding the use of new devices and therapies.


Photo: Lecture room with microscopes; Copyright: Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

The program of the MEDICA Education Conference does not only offer lectures and panel discussions, but also hands-on trainings where participants learn more about, e.g., new microscopy techniques; ©Messe Düsseldorf/ ctillmann

The quality of continuing education is always of utmost importance – regardless of whether this pertains to an expert conference or internal courses in hospitals. In the worst-case scenario, poorly conveyed knowledge or insufficient mentoring harm the patient. This applies to diagnostic sonography for instance as Prof. Christian Arning, Medical Director of the Neurology Department at the Asklepios Clinic Wandsbek and Delegate for Continuing Education at the German Society of Ultrasound in Medicine (DEGUM) explains: "Physicians need experience and a great education in ultrasonography. Without them, diagnostic findings can easily turn out uncertain or wrong. If a misdiagnosis is made it can result in the wrong indications for surgery. The patient could then potentially have surgery for no reason whatsoever."

To maintain and thus increase the quality of ultrasonography and patient safety, DEGUM supports a multi-level certification system for instructing ultrasonography users and hospital departments. This also includes employees of medical device manufacturers from the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association (ZVEI). They participate in DEGUM classes to learn more about user demands in the ultrasonography field.

The collaboration between industry and physicians once more reveals that the development of a device already lays the foundation for its use in practice. "The industry suggested on their own accord that their application specialists should have great training," explains Arning. The cooperation between DEGUM and industry is a cycle where developers learn from users, who in turn benefit in education and applications from the work of manufacturers.
Photo: Surgeons in the OR, a book in the foreground; Copyright: Olson

Continuing education is absolutely necessary for physicians in their later professional life - they cannot learn everything from books; © Tyler Olson

The MEDICA Education Conference as a joint platform

The MEDICA Education Conference (MEC), which took place alongside the MEDICA for the first time in 2013, also supports the teamwork between users and manufacturers. Research physicians are not just introducing the latest findings in classes, seminars and discussion forums in this venue, company representatives also deliver insights into device application and new processes. As the world-leading meeting place for medicine and medical technology, MEDICA provides the ideal platform for continuing education events that address physicians, scientists and manufacturers in a cross-functional manner.

The theme of the 2014 conference is "Medicine Meets Technology - Technology Meets Medicine". Each of the four conference days highlights a different aspect. The program addresses the subjects of infection and inflammation, telemedicine and robotics, gastrointestinal oncology and interventional medicine. "The MEDICA Education Conference program is designed to bring all major medical disciplines together, so they benefit from each when they apply modern technologies," explains Prof. Hendrik Lehnert, Director of the Medical Clinic I at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein (Lübeck). The German Society of Internal Medicine (DGIM), which jointly designed the MEC with the Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, has appointed him as the president of this congress.

"Health professionals need to know which technical innovations are available for which medical application to be able to utilize them. The industry sector in turn needs ideas from science, hospitals and practical experience to be able to develop future innovations," Lehnert adds. The participation at the MEC is recognized by the Medical Association of North-Rhine Westphalia as a continuing education course.
Photo: Filled lecture room; Copyright: Pogonii

Lectures of national and international experts contribute to the quality of a congress. Furthermore, the event should be independent and free from the industry's interests. It is still not unusual that device manufacturers provide sponsorship for an event; © Maximilian Pogonii

Professional congress organizers - competence and distinction

However, large trade fairs like the MEDICA are not necessarily always behind a successful and popular seminar. Small and medium-sized companies such as beta seminare bonn berlin GmbH (bsbb) also offer interesting programs. Among other things, bsbb gears its program scheduling based on the requests of the target audience as Managing Director Eva Ningel explains: "Physicians provide valuable suggestions on exciting medical topics or make inquiries on whether a specific topic would be interesting or whether a continuing education course has perhaps already been scheduled on the subject."

Quality and autonomy are also a top priority for bsbb. This shows in the close collaboration with experts from respective special fields and in the guidelines for lectures by industry representatives, which prohibit promotional contents. bsbb was also able to position itself successfully with specialized courses: "We have supported events on hernia surgery for many years now. The program does not just include live surgeries and lectures by international hernia specialists, but also practical exercises and observations in anatomical institutes and hospital facilities."

Regardless of whether a medical association like the DEGUM, a global company such as Messe Düsseldorf or small companies like bsbb organize continuing education courses - the exchange and procurement of research results take center stage. Nothing speaks against the support by medical technology companies, as long as the autonomy and impartiality by presenters is maintained. Actually, much speaks in favor of this, because companies provide practice devices and are able to impart knowledge from their own research departments. Nevertheless, continuing education still needs to be first measured by the demands and guidelines of medical and professional associations and not by sales. Delivering quality and progress in patient treatment remains its primary purpose.
Photo: Timo Roth; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

The article was written by Timo Roth and translated from German by Elena O'Meara.