Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Web Presence of State Pathology Societies

Professional organizations like state medical associations (SMA) and state pathology societies (SPS) play an important role in organizing and representing Pathologists at a state and national level. Often started as a small social group, they grow into large organizations that perform advocacy on behalf of pathologists, are called upon to give opinions on medical matters and offer Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses to their members.

Often led by dynamic pathologist-leaders, these organizations serve as an excellent recruitment and talent pool. Needless to say, the success of a particular SPS heavily hinges on its member enrollment and the benefits of its membership. It is felt that young pathologists join SPS as trainees, but later become inactive citing diminishing returns.

Today, SPS have started employing web-based solutions to spread their reach, connect their members online, provide membership and meeting information, publish newsletters and by-laws and provide educational material. Across the USA, the extent of this adoption and online services offered is very heterogenous. We surveyed several SPS listed on the College of American Pathologists website and evaluated each web site.

We found that every state in the USA has a formal SPS, but that only 50 % (25/50) of these societies have a web presence. Of these 25 web sites, 84% (21/25) are hosted on a domain registered in the name of the SPS, while 16% (4/25) were part of a SMA. Of note, 76% (19/25) had a newsletter of which only 44% (11/25) had published their current (2010) edition. We found that 76% (19/25) had information regarding meetings online, of which 72% (18/25) pertained to a recent or future meeting. Furthermore, 60% (15/10) had posted their by-laws and 32% (8/25) allowed online membership enrollment, including online forms for 36% (9/25) societies. Finally, 32% (8/25) allowed for dues to be paid online and only 8% (2/25) had some form of active case archives for member education.

Our conclusion is that SPS have not fully utilized the Internet and Web 2.0. Their web sites often provide outdated and limited information. This is a lost opportunity. Perhaps a national effort is needed to standardize and upgrade SPS websites. Such an effort would likely repay itself in the long term through increased member enrollment, improved benefits to members, and better coordination of advocacy activities across states.

Submitted by: Gaurav Sharma (sharmag@upmc.edu)

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