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Technology, workforce, and guidelines dominate conference agenda

By David Lynch - 19th Nov 2023


Rapid technological advances, workforce challenges, and the importance of guidelines were among the main themes that ran through the three days of the Irish Cardiac Society (ICS) Annual Scientific Meeting and AGM 2023.

Hundreds of attendees gathered for the meeting at the Killashee Hotel, Naas, Co Kildare, from 12-14 October, including doctors, nurses, and clinical physiologists.

Reflecting on the three days, ICS President Prof Pascal McKeown told the Medical Independent (MI) that the international flavour of the event was a highlight for him.

Prof Pascal McKeown

“Obviously we have had the opportunity to engage with speakers from the British Cardiovascular Society and the American College of Cardiology,” Prof McKeown told MI on the final day of the event. “And again today we have had the European Society of Cardiology represented. So I think this is about the building of the wider community, and the networking that is afforded in this conference here.”

“When you come to an event like this, you see it is not just what is happening in Ireland, but also what is happening across the globe.”

Prof McKeown also said the attendance of the Irish Cardiovascular Nurses Association and the Irish Institute of Clinical Measurement Physiology displayed how the specialty is “very much about how our multidisciplinary teams deliver optimal care to patients”.

Regarding the recurrent themes of the conference, Prof McKeown said there “obviously were a number of issues; one is around the rapidly changing technology, the ability to deal with data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning”.

“But also I think one of the big issues is around workforce, and how will we navigate the changes in the wider healthcare sector, to optimise patient care.”

Prof McKeown noted the importance of guideline development as another theme, specifically pointing to the 2023 Stokes Lecture on Friday evening.

“We had a wonderful Stokes Lecture by Professor Teresa McDonagh around heart failure,” he added.

Prof Theresa McDonagh is a Consultant Cardiologist in the School of Cardiovascular Medicine and Sciences at King’s College London, UK. The title of this year’s lecture was ‘Heart Failure – Best of Times?’.

In her lecture, Prof McDonagh said she wanted to “focus on what my interest has been over these years, which is really [on] ways to improve heart failure care through service delivery, particularly through audits and guidelines”.

The annual lecture is named in honour of Dr William Stokes (1804-1878), an Irish physician who described a number of cardiovascular conditions. Prof McDonagh made some comparisons between contemporary guideline development and Dr Stokes’ era.

“Just thinking about William Stokes,” she told ICS attendees, “guidelines are obviously a modern phenomenon appearing really in the 1980s onwards.” However, she said, when “you look back at William Stokes’ chapter from his The Diseases of the Heart and Aorta, the chapter about heart failure… there are several important observations he makes… I think you can almost say they are the first heart failure guidelines”.

“But I was thinking about my most recent input into the European heart failure guidelines, and I was envious of him [Dr Stokes]. I was dealing with 31 taskforce members … with strong opinions, [and] 100 reviewers … and I was envious of him being able to do it on his own.”

In reference to the title of her lecture, Prof McDonagh said: “I think when we see the huge evidence base that we have accumulated over the last 35 years for the treatment of heart failure, we are certainly in the best of times, in terms of drug therapies that we have evidence for, and for devices and interventions.” However, Prof McDonagh also focused on a number of challenges facing the delivery of heart failure care to patients.

Prof McKeown awarded Prof McDonagh with the ICS Stokes Medal after she delivered her lecture. He praised the lecture as “truly memorable, full of not just interesting information, but it was also very pragmatic.”

“I think William Stokes would be very pleased with your clinical approach to medicine,” he told Prof McDonagh.

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