Patient influencers bring medical meetings to life online

We recently took a look at how social media has transformed medical meetings, enabling attendees to engage and connect in real time, but also allowing anyone with internet access to join the conversation from wherever they are. As we approach the American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions taking place June 10-14, those at the meeting will take to social media to share their #2016ADA experience with the world, from new research presented to exploring New Orleans and everything in between.

At the heart of this conversation will be the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) – one of the most active online communities made up of patients, caregivers, diabetes health care providers, advocacy organizations and others that connects to share their experience with diabetes, offer support, share knowledge and more. The DOC has played a key role in advancing the conversation around diabetes for years, and this has been no different at key medical meetings like the ADA’s Scientific Sessions.

We asked key DOC member, Scott Johnson of Scott’s Diabetes, to share his thoughts on the DOC and their influence at the ADA Scientific Sessions:

AZ: How long have you been actively involved in the Diabetes Online Community and what inspired you to connect with other patients online?

Scott: I started writing about my life with diabetes in 2004. Processing my thoughts and feelings through language felt powerful – a form of therapy, almost. It was pure luck that tools which made it easy to share my writing and invite conversation also hit the scene around that time.

Connecting with other patients online brings a huge sense of normalcy. Shared struggles, getting excited about silly things, feeling the same frustrations, or celebrating the same successes goes a long way when it comes to the energy necessary to keep working toward good management. 

AZ: How long have you been going to the ADA Scientific Sessions and why do you like to attend the meeting?

Scott: I've been attending ADA Scientific Sessions since 2013 and there are many reasons I like attending. One of the biggest reasons is perspective. This meeting is not a patient meeting, and it's important to remember that. Yes, patients are at the center and are the reason for the work being done, but the meeting itself is not designed for patients. What you'll find here are medical experts, research, science and high-level discussion. And seeing all of the intense interest and activity happening at that level of care is amazing. 

AZ: Why is ADA Scientific Sessions important to the Diabetes Online Community?

Scott: ADA Scientific Sessions is perhaps the best place to appreciate that the pace of medical science in diabetes feels like a slow march, because solving diabetes has so many complicated layers. I often lose sight of that complicated landscape during my daily walk as a patient, which I express in the form of frustration. But when I'm reminded that experts come from all over the world to connect, learn and exchange ideas, and I'm given an opportunity to hear about the work they've been doing, I want people to know that diabetes IS moving forward and that there is tremendous learning happening! It's inspiring and exciting, and all very hopeful. And people need to know about it! 

AZ: How do you follow the news at ADA Scientific Sessions?

Scott: It's very hard, if not impossible, to keep on top of everything at a busy conference like ADA Scientific Sessions. I'll usually check hashtags like #2016ADA periodically to see what's happening there. I also ask as many people as possible what they're enjoying this year and follow any social streams from key people I think highly of who cover a lot of ground and do a great job getting stuff out.

AZ: What are you most looking forward to at ADA Scientific Sessions this year?

Scott: It's always a shining beacon of hope in my year. It's indescribable to see thousands and thousands of diabetes health care professionals learning, sharing, connecting, and broadening their knowledge and pushing the boundaries of what's possible in medicine and technology today.

AZ: How would you encourage other ADA Scientific Sessions attendees to use social media to make the most of their experience?

Scott: Find a way to share what you're experiencing! It doesn't matter which social channel you use and it doesn't have to be pretty or perfect or well thought out. Just help someone else get a taste of what you're experiencing. Share! That's what it's all about.