National congress goes paperless

The Austrian Society of Internal Medicine (ÖGIM) decided to do away with paper at its 2016 annual meeting in Salzburg. A “paperless congress” – one that does not make use of any paper materials, not only benefits the environment. There are many advantages to the approach: Participants spend less time queuing, printing costs and excess printing are avoided and delegates no longer have to haul a mountain of paper around for the duration of the congress. By sending important documents such as invoices or certificates of attendance via email, the risk of loss is minimized. Using the ÖGIM app, participants could navigate the annual meeting quickly and transparently and have access to a dynamic programme that was updated in real time. The app also enabled them to comment and rate the sessions live for instant and straightforward feedback.

To make sure all participants would be able to make use of these benefits, iPads were provided for free, which allowed them to access the pre-installed app. All registered participants were informed in advance that the meeting would be paperless.

Making the congress completely paperless was a very brave and radical decision on the part of ÖGIM. Having previously held all its congresses in the traditional way, this new move drew some mixed opinions. Besides praise there was also criticism: Especially the lack of a printed programme was criticized. Some participants also found it harder to take notes on an iPad. As a large portion of participants attends the congress regularly each year, a gradual transition from “less paper” to “paperless” may have helped prevent negative feedback. A post-congress survey that is being compiled right now is hoping to collect more opinions on the topic of the paperless congress, which will help make the process even more audience-oriented next time.

The Austrian Society of Internal Medicine serves as an umbrella organisation for all non-surgical Austrian medical associations. Next to general sessions on internal medicine, there are many sessions with specialized information on areas such as cardiology, pulmonology or intensive care, serving a hugely diverse audience. The Annual ÖGIM congress has a long tradition in the country. Still, the society is always aiming to improve the meeting's educational and technical standards. With its first paperless congress, ÖGIM has once again demonstrated its sense for innovation.