Monday, April 27, 2020

Our Journey Down the Yellow Brick Road to the OHIMA 2020 Virtual Conference: COVID-19, Virtual Events, Cancellation Costs, Oh My!

by Lauren Manson, RHIA

Envision. You are the Executive Director and only full-time employee of the Ohio Health Information Management Association. You are rapidly going down the Yellow Brick Road towards the “Wizard of Oz” themed OHIMA 40th Annual Meeting & Trade Show. There is an expected attendance of over 900 attendees and 75 exhibiting companies at the conference in Columbus, Ohio. You have donned your ruby red slippers and are fighting off the flying monkeys that always seem to swoop around during this time. Things are moving along well. You’ve made this journey many times before.

A munchkin tells you that the Wicked Witch of the West Coast (whose name is COVID-19 in this story) is hanging out in California. But she seems to be keeping her distance. The Good Witch of the Midwest – Glinda, uh, I mean Dr. Acton – has been giving daily updates that the Wicked Witch may be in Ohio already but has not been sighted flying on her broom just yet. The Wicked Witch really wants those ruby red slippers that you are wearing so they expect her to make an appearance at some point, but no one knows when and where that might be.

You have taken all the necessary precautions.  Setting up hand sanitizer stations along the Yellow Brick Road; declaring the Annual Meeting & Trade Show to be a “handshake free” conference; keeping updated on the Good Witch’s press conferences. One week prior to the conference, things are moving forward with caution. You are getting closer and closer to Oz. But THEN … the Wicked Witch of the West Coast shows up in Ohio. The Wizard of Oz – er, Governor Mike DeWine – declares a state of emergency for the state of Ohio. Events are being cancelled. There are all kinds of data and recommendations flying about – kind of like those flying monkeys. Employers are not allowing their employees to travel – even within Ohio and even to Oz. There are concerns about mass gatherings. Glinda and the Wizard – uh, Dr. Acton and Governor DeWine – are making recommendations to stay home. It seems like we aren’t in Kansas, er Ohio, anymore!

The OHIMA Board of Directors has an emergency Board Meeting via conference call 5 days before the Annual Meeting & Trade Show is supposed to take place and makes the very, very difficult decision to cancel the in-person portion of the conference.  But members still need CEUs - oh my!  It is decided that the educational sessions will be offered as a Virtual Conference instead. OHIMA has never done a virtual conference before – it’s a horse of a different color – but it’s still a horse!  Making a horse change colors is no easy feat in this story.

You, Dorothy, calls upon her trusty friends – the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion i.e. OHIMA part-time staff, Board of Directors and speakers – to help record the Annual Meeting presentations in a three-day period.  The only way to get 30+ hours of presentations coordinated and recorded is to host them on the date/time that they were supposed to take place during the in-person conference. After many long nights and the support of many munchkins, the OHIMA Virtual Conference is up and running!  One week after the in-person conference was supposed to take place. Dorothy is quite tired.  And her ruby red slippers are a bit scuffed. But she couldn’t have done with without her trusty travel companions – the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man

Oz has been saved!  And the journey down the Yellow Brick Road will have to wait until next year… Mark your calendars for February 22-24, 2021 for the OHIMA 2021 Annual Meeting & Trade Show!  There’s No Place Like H.I.M.

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