The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is launching a community website to support thousands of surgeons across the country that practice in sparsely populated areas.
The online community, which will be made available next month, uses Within3's software platform to help health professionals in different locations connect with each other online. The website will offer a range of collaborative tools to connect surgeons, facilitate the sharing of advice, and provide updated research and other resources.
Since many rural surgeons work alone, without access to leading experts at large medical institutions, this private online site will transform how they communicate with each other, regardless of geographic distances.
According to Tyler Hughes, co-community editor of the rural surgeons web portal for ACS, rural surgeons are geographically isolated and don’t collaborate with as many colleagues as their urban counterparts.
"Instead of having five or six surgeons around you like you would in an urban setting, it's usually one or two surgeons in a very large geographic area. This particular project shrinks the surgeon's geographic distance and increases their professional cadre of colleagues," Hughes said in an interview.
Prior to developing the site, ACS interviewed groups of 10 rural surgeons to gauge their interest in a community website, Hughes said.
"The sense was that they wanted an easier way to access ACS's information on every aspect of surgery. For example, they wanted to be alerted when topics of interest are available or when they have cases or types of cases that they need more collaboration on in order to help them prepare for a case," Hughes said. "They liked the idea that we could import video so that techniques could be seen rather than them having to travel long distances to see those techniques. They also felt it would help eliminate the sense of personal and professional isolation that occurs among rural surgeons."
The community website will foster discussions among surgeons in rural areas to promote collaboration and networking on patient cases and care. Moreover, specific topics, "spotlights," and interactive online events will cultivate conversation among isolated surgeons and, most importantly, increase their collective knowledge through shared resources, the latest news, information on advanced procedures, and ongoing online educational opportunities.
David B. Hoyt, ACS's executive director, described the site as a vehicle through which surgeons can connect to their peers anywhere and at any time.
"This is not a social media site that tries to be something for everybody. We’ve spent extensive time interviewing our rural surgeon members and feel this community will offer them a secure site where they can upload images, case studies, and research so they can collaborate virtually, using the latest technology in a way that hasn’t been available to them before," Hoyt said.
The community will launch during the annual Rural Surgery Symposium and Workshop in May and will include extensive outreach to ensure that the more than 3,500 rural surgeon ACS members understand the benefits and features of the site.
"We believe this opportunity will be significant for the rural surgeons in ACS who directly impact 20% of our population. Not only will it allow them to communicate and collaborate more effectively, it will also provide a needed support system for these busy surgeons who practice alone in disperse rural settings," Lance Hill, CEO, Within3, said in a statement.