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Virtual conference growth in optometry


Online optometry forum ODWire recently announced that it will be hosting a virtual conference next month. Dubbed CEWire, the event provides attendees with 30 hours of COPE-approved credit for $99 as well as a virtual exhibit hall offering interaction with vendors.

Online optometry forum ODWire recently announced that it will be hosting a virtual conference next month. Dubbed CEWire, the event provides attendees with 30 hours of COPE-approved credit for $99 as well as a virtual exhibit hall offering interaction with vendors. ODWire plans to donate profits from the conference to charity.

The event is scheduled May 16-17; however, attendees are able to view the lectures at any time up to 90 days later.

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Says ODWire cofounder Paul Farkas, OD, FAAO: “Our goal is to produce the kind of show that we would want to attend, free of constraints like turning a profit or having very narrow subject tracks or topics.”

Online CE more accepted

ODWire cofounder Adam Farkas, MD, has taken online CME for many years, and he says that the idea of using ODWire’s online platform for optometric CE has been percolating for at least a decade.

“There wasn’t a political framework to do this earlier because states weren’t accepting online CE,” he says. “We felt that a tipping point has been reached for it now to be worthwhile for us to give it a try.”

Both Dr. Paul Farkas and Dr. Adam Farkas wanted to be able to saturate attendees’ CE requirements for the year.

“The idea is that we wanted to do a virtual conference in a big way,” says Dr. Adam Farkas, who manages the technical portion of ODWire. “We wanted to give people the maximum amount of choice. There’s nothing more infuriating with online CE than sitting through courses you don’t want to take. We are offering an overwhelming amount of CE as cheaply as possible with the highest quality. We spared no expense. We got the best speakers we could, paying their standard rates like they would receive at a standard CE conference. We’re resubmitting all of their materials to COPE, which is a costly endeavor.”

Next: Going virtual 


Going virtual

CEWire joins CEing is Believing (CEiB) and Seeing is Believing (SiB), two virtual conferences hosted by ODS on Facebook founder Alan Glazier, OD, FAAO, and Eyecare Pro CEO Daniel Rostenne.

Virtual conferences are a great idea, says Steve Silberberg, OD, who is on the program for CEWire and has lectured for SiB. “CE is really expensive,” he says. “In some cases, people have to pay for a flight or a hotel room with all the hassles of getting someplace. The combination of great CE and doing it in your pajamas is a slam dunk.”

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Says CEWire lecturer Steven Nelson, OD: “I'm thrilled to be a part of this program. It's exciting to not only be in the company of such great speakers but also to help usher in a new paradigm in continuing education. This program not only delivers top-quality learning, but it does so from the comfort of your own home without the expense or time away from our practices. The courses can be taken at the doctor’s convenience rather than the lecturer or event coordinator, and it's hard to put a price on that.”

Next: Existing virtual conferences 


Existing virtual conferences

Dr. Glazier says that the concept for CEiB and SiB came about because of a lack of practice management continuing education.

“There was no conference solely dedicated to practice management topics,” he says. “We started running with the idea of doing that. We created a financial model we realized how hard it is to put on a conference. One of us said, ‘What about a virtual conference?’ We found out about a new technology that enables you to have a conference-like platform. We thought, ‘We’re breaking new ground. Let’s do this.’

CEiB launched in 2013, focusing on Internet marketing. Dr. Glazier and Rostenne learned that attendees were interested in clinical content as well and added SiB to the lineup to address that need.

According to Dr. Glazier, CEiB and SiB have served more than 3,000 attendees. Some 600-800 people attend each virtual conference.

SiB 2015 took place in January. Courses are live until April 28.

CEiB normally takes place during the summer, but 2015 CEiB will be pushed back to the fall due to a new concept, according to Dr. Glazier.

“Traditional conferences have one lecturer who produces the content. This year’s CEiB will be content driven from a wide variety of experts,” he says. “Imagine the ability to get online CE not just during the days of the conference or the 90 days after but every single day or any day you want. Imagine that conference is on demand 24 hours a day every day of the year. Whenever you needed your CE, you could go and get it. The next virtual conference will be unlike anything anybody’s ever seen before.”

Next: CE and charitable donation


CE and charitable donation

Upon registration for the program, CEWire offers attendees a chance to choose a charity to receive any profits ODWire gains from the virtual conference. The choices are The American Optometric Foundation, Lighthouse Guild International, and Prevent Blindness.

“CE is compulsory, and it’s there to protect the public,” says Dr. Adam Farkas. “If there are any profits, we want them to go back into eye care.”

He wants to avoid CE for profit, which can lead to “perverse incentives,” which is an economic term. “If you put a profit motive to doing something, you can change or corrupt what you’re trying to do. It can cause all kinds of problems. You’re trying to incentivize the wrong thing and it causes bad outcomes. If you turn CE into a profit-generating mechanism, you end up trying to promote more and more CE instead of the general welfare of the public. CE becomes a mechanism in itself instead of trying to protect the public.”

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