For Electrophysiologists, the World Just Got a Little Smaller

LEADconnection.org forges a global community to advance best practice

LEADconnection.org forges a global community to advance best practice
Bruce Wilkoff, MD

Bruce Wilkoff, MD

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You can’t blame electrophysiologists for sometimes feeling a little disconnected. They are a community of clinicians isolated by geography, language, training and economic systems. Limited access to collegial interaction and up-to-date information forces many to make difficult decisions on their own. The result can be wide variations in how they care for patients and incorporate best practices.

“There are so few of us that it’s difficult to have a knowledgeable conversation,” says Bruce Wilkoff, MD, Director of Cardiac Pacing and Tachyarrhythmia Devices at Cleveland Clinic. “There’s often no one with whom we can celebrate our victories, discuss a problem or debrief after a presentation.”

An online forum to connect EPs everywhere

After years of grappling with these challenges, Dr. Wilkoff became increasingly convinced that they could — and should — be overcome through application of online technology. In May 2015, that conviction culminated in the launch of his brainchild: LEADconnection.org, an independent web portal that describes itself as “a global community that strives to engage every voice for optimal lead management.”

The interactive site provides a forum for conversations, problem-solving and information distribution around the management of patients with transvenous leads, pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators and devices for cardiac resynchronization therapy.

“LEADconnection.org gives electrophysiologists everything they need to deliver optimal care,” explains Dr. Wilkoff. “By getting everyone in one place with relevant information, and having conversations about cases, disease processes, tools and problems, good ideas rise to the top and those with basic flaws quickly disappear.”

All about conversations

More than 350 members in 40 countries have registered for the free, password-protected site so far. After brief (≤ 24 hours) vetting following registration, applicants are granted full access to content and can participate in blog conversations and CME courses. About 83 percent of members are physicians and 10 percent allied health providers, with the remaining 7 percent being scientists or industry representatives.

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It’s in the blog section that members scratch their itch for collegial interaction. They can post questions, images and videos and receive input from colleagues.

“You can have a conversation about a case, a problem you’ve encountered, images you want help interpreting or questions you’re trying to work out,” says Dr. Wilkoff. “These discussions are instructional and publicly viewed by the members, so hundreds of others are able to gain insights and advance understanding and patient care around the world.”

Member contact information is posted on the site to enable one-on-one dialogue to continue by email or phone.

A comprehensive — and independent — resource

LEADconnection.org also serves as a space where virtually all education and information relevant to electrophysiologic devices can be centralized and made accessible. Updates on clinical trials and registries, conference news, posters and presentations from major medical meetings, publications, and educational offerings (both CME and non-CME) are made available. Members are encouraged to recommend content they deem important.

And the content is strictly educational: There are no industry links on the site, which is supported by contributions from grateful patients.

Although the site is copyrighted to Cleveland Clinic and was started by Dr. Wilkoff, Cleveland Clinic exercises no editorial oversight, and the site is set up to operate as a wholly member-directed forum.

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Elevating info access and immediacy

Another impetus for the platform was to make medical education more convenient and accessible. “Big meetings can be expensive to attend and inefficient at disseminating information and improving care,” Dr. Wilkoff explains. “When a clinical trial is presented at a meeting, it can take a long time for the findings to get translated into practice.”

Posting such information on LEADconnection.org makes the results instantly available to electrophysiologists everywhere, triggering conversations about potential impacts on patient care. “It’s a faster, more practical way to develop consensus and improve practice worldwide,” Dr. Wilkoff says.

And by leveraging multimedia resources such as VuMedi, LEADconnection.org has begun providing access to the subspecialty’s most current controversies and data, as when it recently offered access to the International Collaborative Community Satellite Symposium at the Heart Rhythm Society’s annual meeting.

Moreover, a series of CME webinars has been launched on the site. After a member survey showed that pocket management for pacemakers and implantable defibrillators was the topic of highest interest, this was made the focus of the first webinar, held in April 2016. The presentation was made twice 12 hours apart to accommodate participants across various time zones. “This allows real-time feedback with direct member engagement,” Dr. Wilkoff explains.

A work in progress

The website continues to evolve. The CME and clinical trials sections are being fleshed out, and the platform has been revised for improved accessibility on smartphones and other mobile device as well as desktop computers. And LEADconnection.org has established a presence Twitter, LinkedIn and the video-sharing site Vimeo.

All changes are designed to make LEADconnection.org the go-to resource for electrophysiologists worldwide. “We want our colleagues to know they are not alone and don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” says Dr. Wilkoff. “The aim is to give a sense of belonging and empowerment. This can ultimately allow all participants to provide care with the same level of insight as someone in Cleveland.”