Impact of Social Media on an Emergency Medicine Conference

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´╗┐Impact of Social Media on an Emergency Medicine Conference

Abstract and Introduction


Objective: To report on the presence and use of social media by speakers and attendees at the International Conference on Emergency Medicine (ICEM) 2012, and describe the increasing use of online technologies such as Twitter and podcasts in publicising conferences and sharing research findings, and for clinical teaching.

Methods: Speakers were identified through the organising committee and a database constructed using the internet to determine the presence and activity of speakers on social media platforms. We also examined the use of Twitter by attendees and non-attendees using an online archiving system. Researchers tracked and reviewed every tweet produced with the hashtag #ICEM2012. Tweets were then reviewed and classified by three separate authors into different categories.

Results: Of the 212 speakers at ICEM 2012, 41.5% had a LinkedIn account and 15.6% were on Twitter. Less than 1% were active on Google+ and less than 10% had an active website or blog. There were over 4500 tweets about ICEM 2012. Over 400 people produced tweets about the conference, yet only 34% were physically present at the conference. Of the original tweets produced, 74.4% were directly related to the clinical and research material of the conference.

Conclusions: ICEM 2012 was the most tweeted emergency medicine conference on record. Tweeting by participants was common; a large number of original tweets regarding clinical material at the conference were produced. There was also a large virtual participation in the conference as multiple people not attending the conference discussed the material on Twitter.


International conferences have a key importance for any medical specialty. They provide a forum for education, research, collaboration and development of the specialty concerned. Despite the rise of modern communication technologies, physical conferences continue to grow and maintain popularity. Attendance and participation at such conferences is encouraged and credited as part of training programmes and continuing professional development.

The 14th biennial International Conference of Emergency Medicine (ICEM), the official scientific meeting of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine, was held in Dublin, Ireland in June 2012. The 4-day long conference is organised by a committee formed by the Emergency Medicine (EM) faculty of the host nation, in this case the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, Approximately 2400 people (delegates, speakers and industry included) ultimately attended the conference.

Modern web-based communication technologies (eg, Twitter, Skype, blogs and podcasts) have the potential to add another dimension to the conference experience for speakers, delegates and others who are not able to attend in person. There have been several recent studies describing the presence and role of Twitter in education reflecting the idea that participation can be extended beyond the classroom or conference hall. However, there remains a paucity of data describing how emergency physicians (EPs) use such platforms. The activity of physicians at conferences using Twitter has been described previously but the activity of EPs specifically has only been described in brief.

This study was designed to examine the role of social media technologies at ICEM 2012. We examined this in two parts: (1) the social media presence of the speakers at ICEM 2012; and (2) a demographic analysis of people who were actively tweeting about ICEM 2012; a content analysis of the tweets was produced regarding ICEM 2012. We aimed to demonstrate the use of Twitter in particular as a valuable resource for disseminating clinical information to an international audience and promoting and facilitating the ultimate aims of an international medical conference.

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