Cardiology Magazine — September-October, 2012
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Cover Story

ACC 2.0: Carving Out A Place in the Digital Space

The ACC is viewed by the vast majority of its members as a trusted source of knowledge on the science of cardiovascular medicine. In particular, the College’s clinical resources, including guidelines and cardiovascular publications, educational programming and products, patient education tools, and suite of hospital and outpatient registries are among the offerings members say are of the most value.

However, with the advent of cloud computing, “smart” phones, and an increasing number of applications and tools that put knowledge sharing and information gathering at a person’s fingertips, the College faces a number of challenges in terms of staying relevant and providing members with the information they need and value in a manner that fits with how they are receiving other digital information.

In order to meet these challenges head on, the ACC launched a massive effort earlier this year to develop a strategic roadmap to guide the College in the digital space over the next five years.  This digital strategy has a few main objectives tied to impacting member value, fulfilling the College’s mission and driving organizational success.  These include:

• Improve existing member value

• Enhance the doctor/patient relationship

• Drive member engagement with the College

• Drive effective sharing of cardiovascular information

• Improve the quality of clinical knowledge and care

• Increase efficiency in the service of members

“The process of developing this digital strategy has been eye-opening,” said ACC President-Elect John Harold, MD, MACC. “We learned a lot from ACC members, leaders and staff about how they process information and what they expect from the College. We have a lot of work to do, but the opportunities are endless.”

According to Harold, the majority of ACC members not only want to be able to access information while they are “on the move,” they also want content to be targeted to their needs, interests and use habits, integrated with related content, and delivered in the format that best suits their individual schedule and preferences. In addition, interviews with ACC members as part of the digital strategy development process showed they want to be able to easily access up-to-date information across a wide range of platforms in small digestible chunks.

Health policy and data convergence is another area where members are looking to the ACC for help. Evolving health care regulations and health information technology (IT) capabilities are driving a convergence of clinical data and related health care activities, including performance measurement, physician payment, research and educational requirements.

“Link my performance to my education; use my quality of care information to help drive which continuing medical education courses I need to take,” suggested one member in an interview.

Key to the success of any digital strategy is the creation of a rich digital experience that considers not only the ways users interact with the College, but how those interactions make them feel. Among the recommendations taken to the Board of Trustees at their meeting this past August, were the following:

• Unify all ACC digital assets under the umbrella of the ACC core brand to create a consistent feel across channels

• Use the ACC web properties (, as the primary interface of the College’s digital offerings.

• Optimize existing ACC web assets for mobile use – the increasingly preferred way for cardiovascular professionals to engage with the ACC.

• Continue to grow and use social media to communicate with members and drive member engagement.

• Use email to distribute targeted, personalized information to ACC members.

In addition to creating a robust digital experience, the College’s digital strategy also focuses on improving and/or enhancing digital offerings to members. Arguably the most important digital offering is an individual’s professional profile. “The member profile needs to guide a user’s digital experience,” said ACC President William Zoghbi, MD, FACC. “Members should be confident that the ACC is their one-stop-shop for viewing and maintaining clinical performance, education and professional information. Not to mention, the College will be able to accurately focus offerings and communications based on interests, career path and other needs.”

Cardiovascular clinical resources, including guidelines, appropriate use criteria, and clinical toolkits, are other important areas of focus for the College’s digital strategy. “If we do this right, we can make significant strides in improving quality of care and reducing unnecessary health care costs,” said Zoghbi. “Our focus is on providing trusted and authoritative information when and how members need it.” Other science and quality offerings like NCDR® and quality programs like Imaging in FOCUS and Hospital to Home are also important to the digital strategy. Expanding registries to include longitudinal patient data; facilitating greater automation of the interface between electronic health records and registries; and tracking and reporting of outcomes data at the individual-practitioner level are among the recommendations for NCDR.

When it comes to educational resources, the College’s new Lifelong Learning Portfolio (see related article on page 27) includes much of the advanced functionality for tracking education activities; however, integration with a member profile and more mobile offerings, as well as targeted offerings for FITs and cardiac care team members, will ensure the ACC is the preeminent source of educational programming for cardiovascular professionals. ACC organizational resources, as well as CardioSmart® are also included in the broad digital strategy. In interviews with members, a need to better distinguish organizational content from clinical offerings was identified by many.

Moving forward the College is in the process of developing short and longer-term tactics to accomplish the goals outlined in the roadmap. A governance structure that establishes clear accountability for implementation of the strategy; ensures a unified and consistent digital experience; engages ACC member users in the product development process; evaluates the success or failure of digital products; and facilitates greater communication among stakeholders is also in development.

“I want us to ask ourselves every day, how are we using technology to make real differences in people’s lives,” said President Barack Obama in developing a digital strategy for the U.S. “The College is taking this question (quite literally) to heart,” said Harold. “At the end of the day, our goal is to have a strategy in place that puts the College in a position to meet the digital needs of members now, but also be poised to take advantage of the inevitable changes in technologies that await us in the future.”