Pivoting to Virtual Education and Congresses in 2020: Staying Connected to Move Radiology and Healthcare Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how humans interact with each other, and these changes are likely to persist. The pandemic has also altered the way people receive and consume information and education. Online schooling for students is not the only type of education that has been affected. Medical professionals, such as radiologists, depend on the annual conferences hosted by scientific societies to get the latest research in their practice areas, trending clinical information, and information about emerging technologies. They also use these gatherings as a venue for collaborative learning and best practice sharing.

To adapt to this new reality, scientific societies have had to abruptly change the structure and presentation of these annual congresses to offer them completely virtually. The societies with meetings scheduled in early spring 2020, like the American College of Cardiology, had just fifteen days to convert their annual conference plans to an all virtual meeting after Illinois announced restrictions on the size of gatherings allowed in the state.[i] Many other medical and scientific societies had no choice but to follow suit. Despite the hurried frenzy to change the format, they did so because, despite the virus crisis, they understand their members still need to get the important education that is shared at these events.

Whether providing care on the front lines COVID-19, or working to staff and reopen facilities to meet the surge of demand from exams or screening that was deferred during the crisis, clinicians and provider staff still heavily attended 2020 annual medical congresses. In addition to the content provided by the medical societies that host the annual congresses, industry partners who typically sponsor and attend these meetings also provided virtual content, presentations, and meetings so attendees could get information and updates from them as well.

So far, the shift to virtual congresses has been successful, with record attendance and increased international participation. In addition to adhering to safety measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, providing virtual conferences in 2020 also made access easier for people who may have had limited budgets, competing commitments or difficulty traveling. Much of the content can also be accessed online after the event has closed. Looking ahead, these conferences could become more affordable, more international and inclusive if virtual events become "the new normal."[ii]

Virtual Radiology Conferences 2020

Some of the most highly attended annual congresses for radiologists were held completely online for the first time this year. The European Society for Radiology (ECR) was held online from July 15-19, 2020 and was a keen success in terms of virtual attendance and participation, reporting a total of 13,188 virtual attendees.[iii] That total is actually very close to the number of attendees that would normally attend in-person. The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging also held its virtual annual meeting from July 11-14, 2020. And the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) hosted its all-virtual conference and exhibition from August 8-14, 2020.

Industry equipment manufacturers like GE Healthcare and other exhibitors have also changed the way they communicate with attendees at these radiology-focused meetings, sponsoring symposia hosted by the medical congresses, and hosting attendees with virtual appointments, product demonstrations, and video content about new technology and new imaging capabilities in place of their typical physical exhibit spaces at the event.

“We’ve seen over the last few months how the requirement of digital technologies to improve workflow, to make systems more productive, and to help patients overcome fears is becoming more and more important,” said GE Healthcare CEO, Kieran Murphy, in a video welcome message for its exhibit attendees about what they could expect to see from GE this year. GE Healthcare debuted its virtual exhibit, “Elevating Radiology” during the ECR conference and brought attendees a wealth of information on current topics in radiology such as issues related to COVID-19, digital clinical excellence, and operational efficiency.

The company showcased the latest in its portfolio of breakthrough new technologies, and imaging for ambulatory and critical care, and artificial intelligence-based tools for radiology. Some highlights include:

The complete virtual exhibit is still online and available here:


GE Healthcare, as an event sponsor for ISMRM and an industry leader in the MR space, showcased new technologies during the conference dedicated to enhancing neurological research with Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury. At SNMMI, the company highlighted its vision connecting every step in molecular medicine with innovations that help clinicians deliver precise and personalized care. New products were highlighted and reinforced by a portfolio of quantitative imaging tools to help clinicians detect, diagnose and monitor disease.

Virtually Attend RSNA 2020

One of the world’s largest medical conferences, hosted by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) has been held since 1915, and for the first time, will also be hosting its meeting online this year. Following the success enjoyed by other virtual medical conferences in 2020, RSNA has already opened registration for attendees.


GE Healthcare will have a robust online presence at the 2020 RSNA meeting. For more information see GE Healthcare Experience. Register now to experience GE Healthcare’s innovations at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting, which will be held virtually this year, starting November 29, 2020.

In this virtual environment, it is possible to offer attendees new ways to get the important clinical information, new imaging techniques, and best practice information that they need to help improve patient outcomes.


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