New Trend? Free Tablet Computers For All Registrants At TCT Meeting Reply

Cardiologists and others who attend this year’s TCT meeting in San Francisco will receive a free tablet computer. TCT is the highly influential interventional cardiology meeting run by the Cardiovascular Research Foundation. This year it will take place in San Francisco from October 27 through November 1.

Heavily promoted in emails and on the site’s webpage, TCT is promising that paid registrants for the entire meeting “will receive a free tablet computer loaded with the official conference app and other interactive tools to optimize the TCT experience.” Attendees will get to keep their tablets. Here’s how TCT is saying the tablets can be used:

Another very important question: what sort of information about the user will the device send to TCT and/or sponsors? What sort of privacy controls will be available to the user, and will these controls be understood (see Facebook)? Concerns have been raised in the past about the presence of RFID tags embedded in conference badges. The potential for invasion of privacy is much greater with a tablet computer, I imagine.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

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Scientific Statement Examines Role Of Social Media In Fighting Childhood Obesity 1

Social media may become an important weapon in the battle against childhood obesity, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement published in Circulation. However, the statement acknowledges that the evidence so far from published social-media intervention studies has been “mixed” and that social media is also associated with troublesome drawbacks.

The statement delivers an overview of recent research in the role of social networks in health and obesity, and it reviews intervention strategies that employ various forms of social media. Because children are increasingly drawn to it, social media represents “natural points for intervention,” but the statement cautions that “identifying and measuring outcomes would be difficult.”

“Teenagers are texting and using Facebook and other social media as their primary communication with their peers, and we need to find out what factors can be incorporated into social media that will increase the effectiveness of these interventions to initiate and maintain weight loss in kids and adolescents,” said Jennifer S. Li, the chair of the writing group, in an AHA press release.

As an example of the delicate balance required in this area, the statement notes that children prefer texting over traditional paper diaries, but it also warns that social media plays a role in cyber bullying, privacy issues, sexting, and internet addiction. “Doctors need to understand digital technology better so that they can offer guidance to patients and their families on avoiding such issues, and will be aware of any such problems that occur,” said Li.

“The studies we looked at suggest that more parental involvement and more interaction with counselors and peers was associated with greater success rates for overweight children and teens who participated in an online intervention,” said Li. But the statement also acknowledges that the results of the few randomized trials of internet-based obesity interventions have been “mixed.”
Click here to read the AHA press release…

You Know Nothing, Dr. Snow: Why Medicine Can’t Be More Like Facebook 3

Medicine can never be like Facebook, despite what Matt Herper argues over at Forbes. Perhaps he was just trolling for hits on a day when everyone is thinking about the Facebook IPO, but Herper proposed, with apparently seriousness, that medicine needs to model itself on the tech world in order to match the kind of progress– and profits– of a Facebook. But the medical news this week provided ample evidence why this will never happen. Biology is much more complex and resistant than the digital world.

For a medical journalist like myself this was a frustrating week. There were a whole bunch of large, major studies on important subjects published in top journals. But the take-away message from these studies, both individually and combined, is that achieving any kind of real progress in medicine is incredibly hard.

Let’s take a quick look at these studies:

1. Coffee in the New England Journal of Medicine: Despite some of the breathless news reports, some of which erroneously claimed that the study proved that drinking coffee can extend your life, this large study added little or nothing new to our knowledge about coffee. Even the editor of the journal, Jeff Drazen, acknowledged the limitations of this sort of study. The simple truth is this: although coffee is ubiquitous and has been the subject of hundreds of different studies of all different types and designs, we will almost certainly never learn to any degree of certainty whether coffee is good or bad for us. An enormous, decades-long randomized controlled clinical trial, which is the only possible way to ascertain the truth about coffee with any degree of certainty, would be nearly impossible to perform, for multiple reasons.

I don’t want to overstate my pessimism here. I think there is a much more limited lesson that can be derived from this NEJM study and the rest of the coffee literature. From the totality of the evidence it seems highly unlikely that coffee has any large effect, either positive or negative, on important outcomes like mortality or cancer. But we’ll never know for sure about small effects, and we will certainly never know if there are small populations or individuals who are particularly likely to derive benefit or harm from coffee.

2. HDL Cholesterol in the Lancet. In some respects the HDL cholesterol story is exactly the opposite of the coffee story. Unlike coffee, the epidemiology of HDL is clear-cut, and therefore the reverse association of HDL with cardiovascular disease is among the best established facts in all of medicine. But association is not causation, and despite more than a generation of intense research we still don’t know how– or even if– HDL works. In fact, as its name implies, high density lipoprotein is not so much a biological entity as an artificial construct of something that we can measure easily.
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