To survive and thrive in the face of this world-changing pandemic, organizations must learn to be nimble and act like startups—even if they’ve been doing what they do for nearly a century.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has been dedicated to improving health data integrity for almost 100 years. “We deal with patient records, coding, privacy and security of health data, and all things related to a patient’s information,” says Vicky Betzig, Director of Meetings at AHIMA. “And since COVID-19, so many of the guidelines and regulations seem to have gone right out the window! So much has changed so fast for the members we serve, and in turn, we have had to change quickly in order to meet their new needs.”

Here are some of the innovative ways that the AHIMA is helping its members and
exhibiting companies at its annual events.

Knowing What You Don’t Know

Like many associations, annual events are a key revenue driver for AHIMA. But all of the
uncertainty of when states would re-open (and if anyone would come even if they were)
led AHIMA to do something they’ve never done in their long history: convert from in-person
to virtual events.

In addition to the internal staff, AHIMA brought in outside help to make sure the experience
was not just a stitched-together series of video calls and presentations. It was essential to
get the industry expertise to reinvent and rethink what they offered their members.

Ultimately, AHIMA created many engaging and interactive components to make an
experience beyond the recorded sessions. A Concierge Desk with a live AHIMA staff to
answer questions, high-level staff leading dance breaks on camera and technology to
facilitate face-to-face virtual networking were just some of the ways the organization
reimagined their event.

Nurturing Relationships

AHIMA used Personify’s A2Z Events as their exhibitor and sponsor database, and they
relied on that technology heavily when they made the quick change from in-person to
virtual. Betzig explains that they saw competitors cancel events with little warning—
and seemingly zero regard for their partner relationships. “They did not offer exhibitors
any refunds or chance to recoup their losses, and that did not go over well,” she notes.
AHIMA learned from the reactions to that, and thanks to their database, we’re able to
efficiently and effectively communicate with their partners.

Having Empathy for Members

“We’ve had a lot of people in our profession who have experienced salary reductions
or lost their jobs entirely. So, at the association, there’s been a lot of advocacy around
helping them find resources for employment,” explains Betzig. In addition, AHIMA has been assisting out-of-work industry people in transferring their skills to new endeavors like contact tracing and knowing that the pandemic has put many
people in challenging financial positions.

This AHIMA profile was first published on the Associations Now blog on September 7, 2020 as part of an ongoing series profiling the COVID response strategy of Associations. Republished with permission, all rights reserved.