The QNI held its annual conference in late September. We were joined by 200 delegates in the venue and more than 400 delegates live online from various locations across the UK, including six universities and three service providers.
Is this the future for professional nursing conferences? It certainly cuts down on travel costs and enables large groups of delegates to participate. Delegates who participated at a distance watched all the main auditorium presentations and asked questions at the same time as the delegates in the room, via email.
It made me think about the use of consultations which take place online. CCGs are reducing costs by commissioning services which offer e-consultations as part of the follow up for situations where there is no evidencial requirement for a face-to-face consultation.
Recently the medical director of a national spinal injuries centre spoke about how she had reduced the cost of follow up after discharge, by introducing web-based consultations. She described the financial and human cost of bringing a spinally injured person and their carer to the centre. It was an all day event for many of them, requiring significant preparation and planning, a day from work for the person accompanying them and huge disruption to their daily routine.
There were frequently physical consequences, including exhaustion for those who lived far away from the facility and were away from home for several hours - for what was often a 20 minute consultation to confirm all was well. Patients at her unit are now given a choice for their follow up and many are opting for the e-consultation.
So will the QNI conference ever be online only? An interesting idea. But then I would not have had the joy of meeting ex-students, former colleagues, Queen's Nurses and friends with whom I could spend a few minutes reconnecting and planning future collaborations!
The web is a wonderful addition to the clinician's toolkit but there is something about human connection that the web will never be able to replicate.