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New technologies result in "turbocharged" MD leadership conference

The theme of this year's Canadian Conference on Physician Leadership (CCPL) in Vancouver was "Connecting: An Essential Skill for Physician Leaders," and during a meeting turbocharged by new technologies, connecting was exactly what the attendees were able to achieve.

The two-day conference, co-sponsored by the CMA and the Canadian Society of Physician Executives, featured a mix of strong plenary speakers and workshop sessions that allowed delegates to gain in-depth insight into specific leadership skills.

"The outstanding success of this conference is not only a testament to the growing number of physician leaders in Canada but also to the increasing need for us to connect with each other," CMA President Anna Reid noted in her opening remarks.

In keeping with its theme, the 2013 conference had several enhancements, including a mobile conference app. Physicians were also encouraged to make extensive use of social media - especially Twitter - to improve connectivity, and many of them followed that advice.

More than 50% of delegates downloaded the mobile app, which provided access to essential conference materials and allowed them to compile personalized programs on their mobile devices.

The use of Twitter exploded at the meeting, with more than 1,000 tweets posted to #CCPL13. This included participation by physicians and others from Canada and elsewhere who retransmitted conference tweets and engaged delegates on topics such as patient engagement.

This "connectivity in action" meant that instead of having a speaker's comments heard only by those in the conference centre, they could be transmitted to more than 100,000 other people thanks to retweeting.

Dr. Larry Chu, a Stanford University anesthesiologist and leading proponent of using technology to involve patients directly in their care, said new technologies have given physicians more opportunities to provide leadership and engage with others, including patients.

He used case studies to show how patients have become directly involved in helping develop mobile and other technologies to improve the provision of care and become partners in maintaining their own health.

This served to demonstrate how health care delivery continues to evolve rapidly and how physician leaders must continue to enhance their own skills to help improve that system.

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson said Canadians have realized they have to let go of the cherished notion that they have the best health care system in the world. In addition, he said, a decade of governments trying to spend their way out of health care problems resulted in peace with physicians and nurses, but did nothing to improve the system.

Simpson said he is heartened that governments have now entered a period of austerity and will be forced to consider innovative ways to improve the system even as more pressures are put on that system because of demographic change.

Reid discussed the same issues in her address: "Physicians in some organizations and jurisdictions are being cut out of the critical conversations with regional health authorities and governments, and in other places, physicians are being asked to be part of the leadership team but are not being reimbursed for their time. Physicians are in a struggle between their duty to individual patients and also their duty to a society with dwindling resources, which is posing an impossible ethical dilemma for some."

Another speaker, Carleton University business professor Linda Duxbury, kept her audience amused but fascinated as she explained how different age groups in the workplace - from baby boomers to Gen Y - have very different work habits and aspirations that physician managers must take into account.

The 2013 CCPL conference, which was held May 31-June 1, brought more than 450 physician leaders to Vancouver. The 2014 conference will be held in Toronto April 9-12.

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