ParaDocs Worldwide is a service that provides medical support to local, national and global events. Founder and CEO, Alex Pollak, shares the importance of having medical staff standing by ready to provide care at events and projects. Reminding us why these types of services should be at the top of our list when planning an event, not the bottom.
Welcome back to The EventBuzz podcast and Happy Fourth everyone. As events return, safety has been the topic on everyone's mind, no matter the industry, right? With a lot of events scheduled for their return this year, it seemed only fit to talk with someone who specializes in creating a safe environment.
Our guest today is Alex Pollak, founder and CEO of ParaDocs Worldwide Inc. He has over 18 years of experience as a first responder, holds an MBA in Finance and International Business, and is currently enrolled in an MPH program for Healthcare Management. In 2011, Alex discovered a void in the market of on-site event medicine. Thus, with help from his background experience and schooling, ParaDocs worldwide was created.
Hi, Alex, and welcome to our podcasts. I've included a brief intro about you and your background. But could you still tell me a little bit more about ParaDocs worldwide and what you guys do?
Yes, sure. So we provide onsite medical services, mostly geared towards the event industry. So stadiums, music, festivals, corporate events, anything where there's either a large amount of people or, you know, very high profile where you don't want to make a typical 911 call.
So we started in 2014. My background, I was a volunteer EMT, I went to medic school. Back in 2000, I started and then I, my undergrad was in Finance. And my graduate degree, my MBA was in Finance and International Business. I graduated in 2008, right when the market collapsed, so I had a job lined up with a hedge fund that didn't really work out because they closed right after I graduated. So I went to work in finance for national was the second largest ambulance company in the country at that time.
Wow. And I did want to ask, what made you like, recognize this gap in the industry when it comes to, you know, medical professionals on site? Is there something specific or in particular that you remember, just being like, hmm, maybe this is something?
Yeah. So there was actually two times were came up. And it's not when I started my business, but one was, I was working actually, I remember in Harlem, 911. And it was in the hospital, and I saw a bunch of people in rave clothing, I'd never heard of a rave at that point. I never knew about festivals.
And I just like the emergency room was packed. And I had asked one of the girls like what's going on, and she told me about this big party in Harlem, which I never knew what a rave was. So I actually looked it up. So I was my first time ever hearing about the rave, didn't know much about the medical, but when I worked in the finance department that finance company, I worked in corporate headquarters, and we get a lot of requests for ambulances, like a lot of ambulances to be standing by certain events.
And I was like, wondering what this was about. And then I realized we were just doing, they were doing you know, have 50, 20 ambulances standing by an by an event and transporting tons of patients to the hospital, which is great for the ambulance company, because they're able to bill the patients for and get the standby rate. But you know, it's not any type of definitive level of care. It doesn't work for the county, the city, the municipality and over taxes, the system, the hospital system, it doesn't help the fans, because they're spending a lot of money on the ticket to be at a show when you might not necessarily need to be at a hospital that could get that type of treatment. Like even suturing, they could get it on site.
And also doesn't look good for the promoters because the some of the things that they look at even going from state to state is like, what were your numbers? What were what was how many robberies were there? How many assaults? How many medical calls?
And if they're like, it also doesn't look good just to have that all lined up outside of your event? You know, just waiting on call? I don't know. And that makes sense to that it would be a rave?
Yeah. So it's actually funny because the culture is switched quite a bit. Actually, in Europe, it's a little bit different. So it used to be like the people don't want to see like the medical sign. They didn't want to let anyone really acknowledge like, oh, there is a huge need for medical services at an event.
So like they didn't have the big Airstar balloons up you know, by the tents. They didn't have them like clearly marked. It was kind of like this big secret, even though everyone knew everyone needed medical music festivals, especially certain genres, but now it's like super prevalent, like the first thing you see when you walk into a festival. It's like this big red cross balloon.
And I did want to clarify before going further because I was, I don't know if this is a bad question. But so you're paradox worldwide that's throughout your available throughout the entire US or beyond into other countries or how does that work?
We're mostly in the US, we have done some international things we did like Shanghai Fashion Week. We did some events for the W they had, it was like the W hotels put on their own events. So we did one in I forgot what states I mean, what countries we did one in Spain I think. We did, we were in a few countries with like the W hotels, it was I think called the wake up. We do do a lot of cruise ships and destination festivals. But you know, more like to Puerto Rico or, you know, wherever the cruise ships will go, and then they'll have like day trips and festivals set up on some of the islands.
So we aren't technically International, but we're we don't really like run big festivals outside the country.
Yeah, I just wanted to clarify that. That's what I figured, too. But I can see that being a question that someone might have is I just wanted to clarify that right up, right on the bat.
But, um, and then I obviously I have to ask COVID and everything. How has that been for you guys in terms of events? Because we basically went from, you know, events every weekend to zero. So did you guys, I mean, see a shift in your services or the type of events you were working during this past year?
So we actually covered I think the one and only festival in 2020 2019. I mean, sorry. 2020. Yeah, we, that was right, the first weekend of March. So it was right when COVID was starting to become a thing. So right after that, obviously, the first thing to go were large events.
And that's basically I mean, we actually took the name, it used to be ParaDocs Event Medical Services. Now, it's just ParaDocs Medical Services. Because we actually, we went jumped right into FEMA, because we're based in New York, and that's where the biggest outbreak was in the beginning. So we dumped all our resources into FEMA.
So I even like worked as a medic on an ambulance for FEMA. But then we had just a massive amount of resources, like just personnel throughout the country, because we just have so many festivals and different types of work. So we start doing a lot of COVID testing, COVID compliance for like the film industry, for fashion shows. We do it for like we did for some had some government contracts. And it's still going on now. And then we did a lot of vaccinations. So we did some in Barbara. We did a Javits Center, when they when we started when they went 24 hours. We do in Jersey City. We did it for some of the health systems.
So we just like, we didn't run the entire operations, we just put our personnel inside so they were the ones actually administering the shots. So it actually the business grew like tremendously, like revenue wise, just because, you know, we did really, really big shows. So basically, any magazine cover I feel like that I saw this past year, I watched it being shot. Any show on TV that was shot, I feel like we were there.
That's awesome. That's amazing for you guys.
Yeah, it's like, literally, like I watch a sausage being made everything like I can't turn on the TV anymore. Like, Oh, I know how this person acts in real life.
That's funny. Yeah, that's cool. I did notice because I was looking at your social media. And I noticed like that big switch, I saw that you guys were doing, you know, more screenings and testings and, and COVID shots. And so at your events or at these big events, do you guys, technically you're doing like a health screening at the event correct? Or is it just how does that work?
So it really depends, so like we just one of our venues or regular venues was NASSAU Coliseum. So the Islanders I think made it the first step for this in the playoffs of any New York team. So in the beginning once regulations and started shifting and lifting as the state became more and more vaccinated. In the beginning, it was you can only come in with a negative COVID test regardless of your vaccination status, and negative COVID tests within 72 hours.
So we were we had typically you would walk in to you would get your search your ticket scan, I'm sorry, your ticket scan, then your search and then you would enter a building. Now, they had one tent with like 18 of us standing there, taking your temperature. The next time was verification of your negative COVID test. Your next step was that ticket and search. Then as they started easing restrictions that went from you can have a negative antigen test, sorry, a negative antigen test within six hours, and then it went to you can have a, you can have a verification. I mean, I'm sorry, I show a vaccination valid vaccination card.
So then the temperature checks went away. And now it's still since it's over 5000 people in the state of emergency ended. So we resorted back to CDC guidelines, which says anyone over 5000 people, anybody that has over 5000 people, it goes back to CDC. So now it's like, still a verification process, but it's pretty lenient.
Okay. Yeah, I bring that up, because so I didn't know technically, if I wanted to get your opinion, since you have the background in it about like medical records, because it's kind of a topic that comes up a lot when I talk to a lot of different promoters, because they're kind of unsure.
Some do it. And some are, like, absolutely do not create a medical record. I don't know if you have an opinion on this. But I mean, the issue that's brought up is like violation of privacy, but also like record keeping, and there's a lot of different regulations depending on the state of how you keep a record.
A record of what?
Like a medical record, like I know, you have to like some people are like, you know, have you heard of the past, like health passports when you check into it an event?
Yeah, so like that. But um, I don't know too much about it. But one woman I talked to was saying how she tells all her clients like not to do medical, create these medical records, because there's, there's a lot of regulations you have to follow.
So most people are concerned about HIPAA, which is the health. Health, I think it's called Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that was in 1996, I think that's when it was enacted. And that was about the transfer, I'm sorry, my phone keeps ringing, I don't know how to shut it off.
That is that that was because medical records were going digital and they wanted to protect it, there are certain things that you don't need to protect it, keep the records, obviously, like treatment payment, it's called TBL, Treatment, Payment and Operations. So like, if you want to get reimbursed, if your insurance, when you want your insurance to pay for it, then they obviously hospital and your doctor has to release the records to your insurance company for them to reimburse you.
If I'm a paramedic, and picking someone up and dropping them off in the hospital, I have to tell them what I did in the field, how I, how I found them what medication did what I did. So there are certain things you could share. It's very, very hard to sue someone for HIPAA like it, you know, obviously, if someone has, you know, hidden conditions, and you go around talking about it and your healthcare provider, it's but it's not something that's very easily, you know, pursued. And, and for, during the state of emergency, a lot of these things like taking temperatures, a building can say we were not letting you enter because we want to take your temperature and it's a state of emergency. So I think, you know, having, you know, storing any patient information on on file is a bad thing. But you also have to be a medical provider. So if you're not a medical provider, and you're just asking for vaccination status. I don't see that being an issue.
Okay. I don't know enough about it at all. Like I didn't even think about it until I started talking to other people, and they kept bringing it up. So I figured you'd probably be the person to ask.
There are some really big companies that want zero information. Like I'm pretty sure like Apple, Live Nation, like they don't want any information. And I don't want to talk for them. But like any, anything that could resemble patient information, but I think if you and I don't know what the legalities behind it all is, but I think if you say we only want vaccinated people working here, which we get, we get that a lot, actually, where they say we just want vaccinated staff because the audience doesn't have to be vaccinated.
So it makes sense that the medical providers even though technically we're supposed to be masked up, we're like, the only cut like we're the only industry that starts to wear masks is the medical industry. But um, I don't know. I just don't see how it is an issue.
No, yeah, I'm glad I asked you and got your your side of it, because I don't know. Like, it's also new. It's new to everyone. So, you know, we're trying to figure it out. But okay, yeah, I wanted to bring that up about medical records.
And then I do want to ask for our planners listening. What kind of like criteria would you want a medical site or staff on site like would it be how many people are out your event or the type of event or
kind of events?
That's a good question. So most of the states have laws. They're usually under Mass Gathering Laws. So for example, in New York, if you have anywhere in the state in New York, if you have a an event with where you expect 5000 people or more to be in the same spot at one time, then you have to file for part 18, which is a health permit.
So and this is to protect the municipalities like from you draining the local resources, right. So if you just told how 50,000 people out of festival, and you provide nothing, no porta potties, no water, no police, no security, then everything falls on to the township, and then you can't respond to or take care of your county.
So there are laws like in California, I think it's 2500 people is considered a mass gathering, and then you have to apply for health permit. And very, so very some state to stay varies from county to county. So that's the first one is laws.
And then applying for the permit, depending on what type of event it is, you know, there are some states which have very, like, very, very specific spelled out requirements. So if it's from two and a half to 5000 people? Is it 18+? Is it their alcohol being served with 21+? Is it music? Or is it a wine tasting? Is it you know, a TV show, is it a marathon? And as you check the boxes and tells you what resources you need to provide in terms of medical.
And then there are some places like New York, which basically has very, very, it's super subjective. So if it's an EDM festival versus a race, it could be totally different mix up of what's required on site. And then there's the regulations like we have Formula E, which is next week in Red Hook, Brooklyn. And they have international, you know, it's an international racing event, and they have their own regulations, of what type of coverage maybe not for the public for, but for the sporting side of it.
So we need certain types of doctors and equipments, God forbid, and if there is an accident, you know, extrication teams, things like that, but that goes with them from country to country or wherever they're throwing the event.
And then the other part is, if it's a super high profile event, or very important people you want to preempt any emergency, the last thing you need at a very high end fashion show or big corporate dinner is, you know, calling 911 because someone needs a band aid or you know, or the worst thing is even in a good situation, no one's showing up before, you know, nine minutes.
On a good day, you know, with someone seizing on the floor, it's with them people are paying $100,000 for dinner plate. It just, it's not the best.
Yeah, yeah. So a lot of factors to consider when you're putting together your event. It's just something I think naturally, people don't think about firsthand, because, you know, but it's necessary to have that help there.
And that's how we use typically not now anymore, but we used to get hired a lot when they would, something would happen. Actually, this happened to us two weekends ago. All of a sudden, everything was lifted, and we got I'm not joking. My phone rang every 10 minutes. And they're like, Where's our EMT? We have a patient now I'm like, What? And they said, Our EMT like we're calling on the radio for an EMT. I'm like, guys, you last time you hired an EMT was 15 months ago, you never told us you're opening this week. We have a patient.
And this literally happened like non stop two weekends ago. And they're like, so then we're like, you have to call 911 which they obviously you know, doesn't look great for them. And then we were like, Okay, can you give us the schedule for the rest of the weekend? Rest is summer, like you're officially open. Like, it just wasn't a call. So sometimes they hire us because something happens, or has happened in the past and there was no one there to call for help. And that that happens a lot. And That's how we get hired, especially in the beginning.
I mean, that makes sense. You learn from your mistakes. So and like you said, the especially if your events if tickets are expensive. You don't want to be calling 911 and having that happen. You want to be prepared.
And then lastly, I did want to ask because I think this is a great idea, especially for people that you know might not necessarily want a uniformed medical staff at their event or in certain situations is your ambassador program.
Yeah so the ambassador program is usually made up of medical students and nursing students. It's basically it's just an extra set of eyes roaming the field, they're usually dressed in very less, you know, like tank tops, they're walking around handing out water, you know, mingling with the crowd.
They kind of know what to look for, we give them a little bit of a briefing, but they're also less aggressive, like they're not coming in with a uniform, it doesn't look like Security or Medical. So it's easier for people to relate to them, because they're also you know, in school, and they might be in med school, but you know, they're in school, they're younger. So they are basically on the same like level.
Just, they're not partying, they're helping out. So it's great for them, because they get experience to see how we work because they're, you know, out there looking for patients.
And sometimes we can't see everything. And it's just an extra set of eyes and ears that have some type of training, but not really. So it's a very soft approach. So we think of it as bridging the gap between, you know, medical security and the festival goers.
Mm hmm. Yeah. And it'd be great for large events that are, you know, more relaxed, and that I wanted to mention that, because I could see a lot of the people that we work with being very interested in that, you know, because they put on these big events that are a lot more casual, and stuff.
So having people go out throughout the crowd, and like you said, being the extra eye is really important. And I mean, makes your job easier.
But I'm looking through your website, you guys offer a good list of different types of services. So if anyone's interested, that's listening, in learning more, I'm I'll definitely link your guys's services below or attached to the show notes so they can go over and check out and see what works for them.
Yeah. And so I just wanted to ask you a few questions and learn a little bit more about ParaDocs and everything you guys offer. If there's anything else you wanted to add to for people listening that you know, you think they should know about you guys.
Thank you so much for an interview. I don't think there's much more.
Yeah, thank ya.