More than a thousand physicians from around the world have signed up to learn new techniques to treat atrial fibrillation this week at Intermountain Medical Center.

And most of them will stay home from the symposium to attend.

The interactive conference is harnessing all the power of the digital world, with Webcasts, podcasts, live blogging and more, according to Dr. John Day, director of Heart Rhythm Services at IMC. It will be available on YouTube afterward.

Such events are the future of medical education, says Day, who got the idea from the response he received after doing the first live Webcast of an atrial fibrillation ablation procedure last year.

"We believe that this represents the future of medical education in that basically we are taking a full medical conference with live cases, presentations, the whole works and making it interactive and on the Web for a worldwide audience," said Day. The content will also be available for a year afterward for download to iPod or laptop, "completely open at no cost, in the spirit of the Web," he said.

Intermountain heart rhythm specialists have been innovators in treatment of atrial fibrillation, including finding that not all ablation patients need to be on a powerful blood thinner and changing how ablations are done to reduce tissue damage. Traditionally, ablation has been accomplished by zapping tissue a spot at a time with low-dose energy. Intermountain doctors, however, found using higher power and less time with the zapper reduces the risk of damage to surrounding tissue.

Rather than "dab," they "draw," using more power and moving more firmly and quickly. Areas can be revisited after they've cooled down. Doctors have come from all over to learn the technique.

The symposium includes broadcasts of both lectures from experts from around the country and a chance to watch complex procedures being done in the catheter lab at IMC. Question-and-answer sessions are also on the agenda.

A limited number of physicians could watch a procedure in person, but with good videography and the internet, there's no limit. Adding the other features lets participants and experts ask and answer questions in real time and share their experiences and concerns.

While 1,000 have preregistered, Day said they expect as many as 10 times that number will watch it in archived form. "Once something's on the Web, it has a life of its own," he said.

About a dozen experts will lecture and demonstrate during the seminar, which started Monday and runs through Wednesday from 6-8:30 each night.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com