to the database once a year and update their financial disclosure. Authors also were able to disclose on behalf of their co-authors. Once their abstracts were accepted, however, all authors and co-authors were required to disclose individually.
“In [the fall, with the Annual Meeting approaching,] we would be faced with 1,600 disclosures still out and we’d be chasing them literally all over the world, ... because the United States is the only country where disclosure is required,” Niesen said. “Once, we tracked down a guy on an island. He was taking his dream trip around the world, and we had to locate him by satellite phone.”
AAOS’s partnership with Coe-Truman has streamlined disclosure by making it part of the actual abstract-submission process. For the 2012 Annual Meeting, authors submitting an abstract had to make sure both their own and their co-authors’ financial disclosure was complete before the abstract could be accepted.
New and Improved
To submit an abstract under AAOS’s new system, members log on to the organization’s website and are directed to Coe-Truman’s website to fill out the abstract. They then return to AAOS’s page to find their disclosure information—moving seamlessly between the two sites. “You find yourself in the system and make sure your disclosure is up-to-date,”Niesen said. “Then you find your co-authors’ disclosures. If you find John Brown’s disclosure and it’s not current, the system will send him an email reminding him to update his disclosure. Then you’re done with disclosure.
“You go back to Coe-Truman and submit the abstract. You get an email saying you are number 1,000 and we are waiting for John Brown to complete his disclosure. Every week you get an email saying John Brown still hasn’t disclosed; you might want to get in touch with him. Or it could say John Brown has updated his disclosure and the abstract is completed and ready for grading.”
The deadline for abstract submission for the 2012 Annual Meeting was June 1, 2011. “We gave a grace period until July 1 for the purpose of disclosure, so if the abstract is in the database, you have 30 days to get your co-authors’ disclosure,” Niesen said. “A lot of members were [medical] residents when they did their research. So it can be difficult to track down your co-authors. People have often moved to different hospitals or different countries.”
Although AAOS was “very pleased” with its new system and “optimistic for the future,” Niesen said that the transition was “rough.” For starters, “you needed to know your AAOS user name ... or enter the right information to get your user name. To complicate things, we changed databases a year ago. So everyone had to have a new user name. A few thousand people didn’t have one; they had to be assigned one. There were a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls.”
Members also “duplicated themselves” in the database, creating another challenge. “We had to go into the database and try to figure that out,”Niesen said. “A lot of manual labor went into it—calling people trying to figure out if John Brown in Arlington is the same as John Brown in Dallas. Is one his work address and one his home address?”
Another hurdle was the “lack of understanding of foreign guests to the disclosure process,” according to Niesen. “It was really confusing and irritating to them. They don’t know why you need this information. They may think they disclosed, but they really didn’t. Or they may call you and say they have nothing to disclose and think they don’t need to do anything else.” One item on AAOS’s to-do list for its 2013 Annual Meeting is optimizing search results in its database. For 2012 “we tried to match on name and email address,” Niesen said. “But that didn’t work because email addresses change all the time. Now we’re going to do name, email, city, state, country—any or all of those. It’s a wider parameter of search, so someone searching for co-authors will have more options.”
‘Lessons Were Learned’
In the end, the new submission process “took much more staff time and much more staff this time around. The membership department, switchboard, customer service, and almost all of the people in the convention and meeting-services department were helping out at one time or another,” Niesen said, noting that AAOS has already begun talking to Coe-Truman about next year’s abstracts. “The meetings we are having with Coe-Truman and our IT department will make the process seamless in the next few years.”
Susan McSorley, AAOS’s director of convention and meeting services, agrees. “Coe-Truman has been a good partner,” she said. “Lessons were learned in communication with submitters since this was a new process of submitting an abstract as well as disclosing for the presenter and all co-authors. We have identified and worked through the areas that created challenges and look forward to utilizing the system for next year.”
Coe-Truman also was “very happy with the way [the project] turned out, despite any hiccups along the way,” said Jon Jenkins, Coe-Truman’s director of product management and development, who was one of the senior architects of the AAOS project. “Any time you go through the same process more than once, you drive efficiency. I would be very worried if we didn’t. If we got it perfect the first time I would argue that we are not working hard enough to improve.”
Carol Bialkowski is a New Jersey–based freelance writer.
Picking Your Partner
Kathie Niesen, CMP, education manager for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), has one piece of advice for medical associations interested in upgrading the abstract-submissions/disclosure process. “Make sure you have the right vendor,” she said. “I can’t tell you how important that is. Make sure your IT department and the vendor have a relationship and work together. I could never have done this without both of them.”
AAOS put its abstract-submission process out to bid and got a “wide range” of responses. “We felt Coe-Truman had the staff and professionalism and willingness to make it work,” Niesen said. “They did whatever they had to do to make it work. I think they bit off more than they could chew, and we did, too. But we made it work by working together. It really was a collaborative partnership.”
Coe-Truman went into the partnership with “respect” for AAOS’s internal system, according to Jon Jenkins, Coe- Truman’s director of product management and development. “They have a system that is very central to what they do,” Jenkins said, “and they have a very capable tech team on their end. We have to honor that as a vendor and not impose our system on them. If they have a good system that works, we need to integrate with that.” He added: “You can’t say there are only one or two ways to do something. If you’re flexible, and almost plan for that flexibility, the final outcome will be much more effective.”
The AAOS Orthopaedic Disclosure Program
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