Medical conference goes online, too important to cancel

Medical conference goes online, too important to cancel

In the early days of fall, we received a call from Tammie at the Marion Country Health Department in Indianapolis. She recently decided that conditions in her area were too dangerous to host an in person meeting of health professionals about Opioid Safety and Alternatives, and was looking for an online option. We were recommended by a mutual friend who works at the CDC.

I was excited to bring our kits and our processes to Indianapolis to provide a demo. It only takes a few minutes to get our kits up and running, and I felt the demo went well.

Shortly after we received an official request for quote, and as is always the case with local government projects, budget is of critical concern. The show we were asked to quote included everything from the camera lens to the audience eyes. This included the website for the virtual conference, and 20 speakers, mostly in the region, but two speakers across the country. We felt it was much to dangerous to bring 18 speakers together on the day of the show, and there wasn’t adequate funding to do 20 kits at one time for a live show.

We suggested a plan to pre-record all of the general sessions and breakouts, and developed a method for live Q&A that ultimately met the needs of the show, kept everyone safe, and met the budget. We were thrilled to find a way to keep this project moving forward.

Seven days before the show, I shipped two ReLink Briefcases to NY and Denver, and then I set up our ReLink Suite and a green screen in one of the conference rooms at the health department. The Suite provides a robotic camera, lighting, two monitors, a microphone, and a HDMI ingest for graphics. This conference about opioid safety was packed full of power point presentations, and each presenter was invited to bring their own laptop. We simply plugged in an HDMI cable to each machine and we were ready to film.

The green screen allowed us to create a simple virtual set, which is much more pleasing to look at than a white wall.

Each presenter had 60 minutes allocated for their presentation and Q&A. They were encouraged to leave 15 minutes for Q&A. Some left more, some left less. We gave each presenter a two hour time slot for recording, with a half hour in between each session. I wanted this time to make sure presenters could enter and exit the building without crossing paths with other presenters, to give them time to set up, get comfortable, and to give us a buffer in case anything went wrong. I for one thought the presentations were spectacular, covering topics like alternatives to opioids for pain management, stigma, nerve stimulation, using biophysical agents and more.

One by one, we recorded each video, live cutting between full screen camera and powerpoint presentations, just like we would at an in person event.

Our last hurdle was getting everything setup for the live Q&A. Obviously we didn’t want to bring all of the presenters together, and we didn’t have the budget to send a high quality kit to every presenter, so we did the next best thing. We have a method (not zoom) for accessing the cameras and the microphones on our presenters computers (NOT ZOOM). Each presenter went to a webpage that we set up, and punched in the last 4 digits of their phone number on the keypad on the screen. This brought them to a presenter specific web page that allowed us to interface with their machine. It’s so much better than trying to send individual links in individual emails, and then trouble shooting each action individually!

We also installed an intercom app on each presenters phone when they came in to record. This gave us the ability to speak to them during their Q&A, giving them cues for when to start and the time remaining in their session, in their ear.

Attendees were encouraged to type questions and comments about each presentation in a chat box provided below the video. These questions were fed in real time to the individual presenters during the Q&A, giving them time to curate a list of questions and answers to address during the live portion. It’s often important to moderate the questions coming in, especially if sensitive topics are being covered.

Many of the attendees of the conference were also seeking Continuing Medical Education credits. There is a real concern that attendees could start watching a presentation, and then multitask or get distracted and fail to get the full benefit of the presentation. We built in pop up questions that each attendee had to answer within a small time frame to continue to watch the video. If no response to the question was logged, the attendee was sent back to the schedule page and would not get credit for watching the video. This satisfied the organization responsible for administering continuing education credits.

The website was designed to automatically move attendees from session to session. When a general session would end, attendees screen would automatically revert back to the schedule page, allowing them to choose which breakout they would like to view. When the breakout and Q&A would end, the attendees would be returned to the schedule page where they could see the next general session. Also, each of the powerpoint presentations was available for instant download via the schedule page.

I’ll be honest, I don’t fully understand everything I heard during this conference, but I found myself inspired and grateful to be in the presence of these hard working, intelligent, passionate scientists and caregivers who pursue the knowledge that makes this world better and safer for all of us. We all know the damage that opioid and other substance abuse disorders have caused. Most of us have a direct connection to someone who is struggling with some form of addiction. There are incredible humans out there working hard every single day to ease that suffering. It’s important to remember that good work is happening right now, and we at ReLink are thrilled that we had an opportunity to help facilitate that good work and the sharing of knowledge and best practices.

So many of our events are private, hidden behind the NDA, and we are grateful for that trust and that work. It makes events like this one even more special, and I’m thankful I got to share it with you.

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