The Ohio Health Information Management Association hosts the largest state HIM show in the United States with over 900 attendees and 75 exhibiting companies. The conference is held annually mid-March in Columbus, Ohio. One week prior to the 2020 conference – OHIMA was moving forward with caution while closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. While there were cases of COVID-19 on the west coast, there were zero cases in Ohio as of start of business on Monday, March 9th. The global HIMSS conference in Florida and the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio had been cancelled; but both had international presences while 90+% of OHIMA attendees and exhibitors were from within Ohio and 100% were from within the United States. OHIMA leadership discussed the concerns surrounding COVID-19 at-length and repeatedly the weeks approaching the conference. Any decision to change or cancel the OHIMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show would have a dramatic impact; therefore, such a decision could not be made without justifiable and serious reasons. Late Tuesday, March 10th – five days before the conference was scheduled to begin – the OHIMA Board of Directors made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person portion of the OHIMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show. The situation in Ohio began changing hour by hour which made it impossible to accurately assess risk and the health of attendees, exhibitors, speakers and staff was a top priority.  Several new developments occurred in Ohio the day that the decision was made:

  • Cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Ohio
  • A state of emergency was declared by Governor DeWine
  • More and more employers are prohibiting travel including several large employers who had intended on sending many employees to the OHIMA annual conference
  • Several colleges suspended in-person classes
  • There were discussions about prohibiting mass gatherings of over 100 people; later that week, Ohio Governor DeWine would issue an Executive Order banning mass gatherings.

Because of the OHIMA conference size, there are only two venues in Columbus large enough to host an OHIMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show (the current venue of the Hilton at Easton and the Columbus Convention Center). Both venues book events 3-5 years in advance. This fact, coupled with limited exhibitor and speaker availability and staff resources, it was impossible to simply postpone or reschedule the OHIMA 2020 Annual Meeting & Trade Show. Cancelling the in-person portion of the OHIMA conference presented serious financial implications for OHIMA. If attendee registrations and exhibitor booth fees were refunded – in addition to paying all expenses (which was a likely occurrence due to cancelling so close to the event) – as a small association, OHIMA may no longer exist due to the long-term financial impact of this decision. This financial concern – along with the fact that members still needed CEUs – it was decided to offer the educational content of the OHIMA Annual Meeting in a virtual format!

Over the next week, OHIMA Board Members and Staff implemented and executed a plan to record over 30 hours of educational sessions and provide them to meeting attendees in a virtual, recorded format to watch at their convenience. On March 23rd, access instructions for the OHIMA 2020 Virtual Conference were provided to conference attendees. With a robust Learning Management System implemented just a few months prior, the educational session recordings were posted so that the system tracked which presentations were viewed by individual users and CEUs were automatically added to the users’ OHIMA profiles. Because attendees could listen to the General Session and all breakouts available on the day(s) they purchased, at least 10 CEUs were available each day, with over 30 for the entire conference. This number of CEUs offered was double the usual 5 per day, 15 per conference available at the in-person Annual Meeting. While it was a whirlwind two weeks, overall, the conversion of the OHIMA Annual Meeting into a Virtual Conference was a true success! Registration was re-opened and the total registration count exceeded the number that would have attended the in-person conference. Contact the OHIMA Central Office if you’d like to register and attend the OHIMA Virtual Conference (

Lauren Manson, RHIA
Executive Director – Ohio Health Information Management Association (OHIMA)