On Technological Innovation, Robert A. Wynbrandt & Grahame Rush

STS News, Spring 2012 -- On Technological Innovation
Robert A. Wynbrandt • Executive Director & General Counsel
Grahame Rush • Director of Information Services

Cardiothoracic surgeons understand better than most that we live in an era of eye-poppingly rapid technological change. And beyond the implications of this phenomenon for the practice of medicine, the current surges in Internet connectivity speeds and computer device innovation are providing medical specialty societies like STS with a wealth of new opportunities to enhance and expand their services to members. As we return this space to our series of guest appearances from other members of the Society’s management team, Grahame Rush, STS Director of Information Services and recently appointed Executive Director of CTSNet, Inc., explores how the Society is leveraging emerging and established information technologies to augment member benefits and to establish new corridors of communication with STS members and the specialty at large, both in North America and across the globe.

If you were lucky enough to attend the STS 48th Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Jan. 28 - Feb. 1, you would have been thoroughly spoilt for choice by the plethora of parallel sessions offered. Indeed, it would have been quite impossible for you to have taken in every excellent session. That is one of the reasons why, starting in 2010, STS has been making available STS Annual Meeting Online, a full-motion video web presentation of most content presented at each year’s Annual Meeting.

With the 2012 Online product, you can experience to your heart’s content more than 75 hours of meeting presentations, and go on to claim CME or participation credit for every one of numerous parallel sessions. This year, recognizing the exponential growth in the use of smart mobile devices—including Apple’s iPad, the Society also released a mobile version of both STS 48th Annual Meeting Online and the companion STS/AATS Tech-Con 2012 Online product. Now, wherever there is a good Internet connection, members can enjoy these two premier events in cardiothoracic surgery on their smartphone or tablet of choice. The STS Annual Meeting Online could never reproduce the experience of learning hands-on through one of the Society’s renowned STS University courses (which, as one might expect, are not featured in the Online product), or serve as a substitute for interacting with colleagues, presenters, and course instructors at the live meeting. However, it is an outstanding example of how the Society is harnessing techology to make the STS Annual Meeting digitally available to the cardiothoracic surgery world at large, and to develop new opportunities for members to obtain high quality continuing medical education.

Over the last two years, STS has also significantly enhanced its overall Internet presence, both by migrating sts.org to a feature-rich content management system hosted on the Amazon cloud and by fully redesigning the site. As well as boasting a substantially re-architected navigational structure, the latest iteration of sts.org contains parallel homepages for four key Society constituencies—cardiothoracic surgeons, residents and students, allied health care professionals, and patients; incorporates a ubiquitous “Key Resources” block with quick links to the most frequently visited pages and applications; and features a highly visible “Upcoming Events” section, enabling members easily to explore and register for the Society’s ever-expanding educational offerings. In short, sts.org is a critical compendium of the latest Society news, Strategic Plan and policies, educational programming, STS National Database initiatives, research activities, and advocacy efforts in Washington. The redesigned site also houses STS Public Reporting Online, an application that allows any site visitor to find at the touch of a button the ratings of STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database participants who elect to publicly report their heart bypass surgery outcomes.

Also germane to the Society’s enhanced use of information technology to benefit its members and the specialty, it is noteworthy that the Boards of both STS and CTSNet, Inc. recently determined that STS staff should provide management services for CTSNet. Thus, CTSNet, which began as an internal STS project in the mid-1990s and was spun off as a separate corporate entity in 1999, has in a sense returned to its origins (although, of course, it will remain a separate and distinct organization that is governed by an independent Board and operated as an entirely independent entity). STS staff is highly motivated to maintain ctsnet.org as the pre-eminent international web destination for cardiothoracic surgery, and to foster CTSNet’s vital mission “to advance education and collaboration in the global cardiothoracic surgical community through Internet resources.”

The management of CTSNet, plans for the continued enhancement of sts.org, and projects such as STS Annual Meeting Online and STS Public Reporting Online are certainly keeping the Society’s IT staff fully engaged. And keep an eye on STS News, your e-mail inbox, sts.org, and the Society’s Facebook page and Twitter feed for several exciting new initiatives on the horizon, including new mobile apps and the expansion of STS’s recent foray into the world of webinars; there’s a lot more technological innovation coming!

Joyce Gambino Retires
After 20 years of service to the Society, STS Director of Meetings and Conventions Joyce Gambino has decided to smell the roses as of May 1, 2012 (periodically stopping along the way thereafter to consult with us!). Joyce played a significant role in the growth and success of STS meetings over the years, particularly the STS Annual Meeting and related events. We thank Joyce for her many years of dedicated service to the Society, and wish her the best on the golf course and elsewhere throughout the years ahead.