When the organizers at the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) began planning the group’s 30th Annual Meeting, they knew it would be a hybrid event. And they knew safety would have to be a top priority for the in-person portion.
“Conducting our first hybrid meeting presented us with many new and different planning challenges,” said Renalin J. Malvar-Ledda, senior director of events and operations at AAHKS. To allay one of those challenges, Malvar-Ledda and her team hoped to find a company that could develop an overall health and safety plan for the event.
“We found a dearth of companies with much prior experience or track records in doing health screenings at events,” Malvar-Ledda said, until they found Safe Expo. “We were impressed that the Safe Expo principals had backgrounds in event management and conferences, so they knew what we were up against.”
Most importantly, she said, after a thorough evaluation of Safe Expo, Dr. Keyur Vyas, the infectious disease specialist advising AAHKS, gave his approval to the health monitoring agency.
AAHKS hired Safe Expo to implement its health attestation program and temperature screening procedure at the in-person portion of the meeting, which took place Nov. 5-8, 2020, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Safe Expo’s mobile-based, customizable health attestation program collects health and safety information from event registrants through a daily health inquiry form. Upon completion of the short health questionnaire, an email confirmation is sent allowing the registrant to save the “Safe Pass” for quick access once they arrive at the event space.
But Safe Expo’s collaboration with its clients begins before attendees are on site. The company assigns a team of trained professionals to each event, including a safety ambassador and a health liaison, to assist with pre-event program development. They collect information from event venues, host hotels, and local health departments to compile a health summary outlining regulations, and then create an event safety program from that research and discussions with clients.
On site, the health liaison helps communicate with all venues as well as the contracted medical professionals involved. The safety ambassador serves as the information center, sharing information about the Safe Expo program and answering any questions from organizers or attendees. Safe Expo’s service also includes post-event monitoring of attendees.
As part of its program for AAHKS, Safe Expo provided daily COVID-19 health screenings for all the AAHKS attendees, staff members, and exhibitors. The screenings included an online symptom checker that attendees accessed each morning through a mobile app, a temperature scan as attendees entered the conference area, and a follow-up protocol if any issues arose.
“Safe Expo alleviated our involvement in the nuts and bolts of the health screening function, including staffing, equipment, supplies, mobile app, and complete documentation,” Malvar-Ledda said.
The Safe Expo team was “exceptionally professional and accommodating,” she said, providing two examples. Despite having already set up the screening areas that were convenient for attendees but also did not interfere with social distancing, the Safe Expo team added an extra, temporary screening station for exhibit hall service workers who were required to enter through a remote loading dock. They also modified the mobile app after the event’s first day in response to AAHKS attendees’ feedback, she said.
“Our staff appreciated their flexibility, preparedness, and interest in the overall success of our event,” Malvar-Ledda said.
AAHKS attendees also appreciated Safe Expo’s work. In a post-event survey conducted by AAHKS, 99 percent of the attendees in Dallas said the health and safety measures were carried out effectively, Malver-Ledda said. “Many of our surgeon-attendees observed that our screening process was as good or better than what they experienced at their hospital,” she said. “We fully expect that health and safety will remain top priorities in 2021 and we will again call on Safe Expo to assist us.”