What Does HIMSS Mean to You?

HIMSS (the show, anyway) is done for 2014. Follow-up will continue for the next several weeks for me. I know everybody is sad about its being over and likely very tired.

HIMSS is a massive event for the industry and it creates a lot of buildup and effort leading into it. The conference is exhausting. If you want a good sense of the day to day of HIMSS, you should check out the daily posts on HIStalk, they are fantastic. Even if you’re at HIMSS, those posts are good reads because likely you missed most of what they saw.

I went into the week sick, which didn’t help, and it made Monday very challenging for me. Not being able to eat but still being on your feet all day talking to people is not much fun. I was mostly recovered on Tuesday, so the conference got better.

I was there Sunday through Wednesday night, but I know a some people are there longer. I don’t know how they do it. I was spent by the end of Wednesday.

I have a love-hate relationship with HIMSS. It’s a great place to meet with new people and connect with your network. It’s a fun place to see how the biggest vendors spend ungodly amounts of money (I’ve always wondered what the ROI is for marketing dollars spent on HIMSS.) I was unaware and shocked when I found out that some exhibit hall space is booked a year or even two years in advance. It makes sense for the biggest players, but was still surprising.

We had a booth — more of a mini-booth — in the Startup Showcase. HIMSS did a great job with the startup area. Despite being somewhat hidden behind a huge column and behind Cerner, we got a lot of traffic. Thanks to Avia for letting us know about it and thanks to the HIMSS folks for helping us get set up.

The startup booths themselves made it a bit challenging to have conversations, so most people flooded out into the walkways, which had more padding on the carpets than the Startup Showcase itself. It was a win for the feet to get off the startup carpet.

It was my first time manning a booth at HIMSS and it was painful at times. We had decent traffic walk through, but I don’t think the regular booth traffic was a huge benefit for us. The passes that came with the booth were more than worth it, though. In talking to other first-time booth buyers, the real value they saw was having a set place to meet people. If you’re trying to accomplish something specific at HIMSS, it’s much more valuable if you set meetings ahead of time. If not, the whole event can be a very expensive wash.

As you walk around the exhibit hall, you come to realize how huge, varied, and largely disconnected everything is at HIMSS. You have the usual suspects like Epic, Cerner, athena, GE, Siemens, etc. But you also have an incredible array of other stuff, from services companies (across all aspects of HIT) to hosting providers to telemedicine to ICD-10 and on and on. If you keep exploring, way into the 7000 rows, you have the Intelligent Hospital section, with much of the tech being powered by Intelligent Insites. You can turn right (I think it’s east but I really don’t know) after that and head into the Interoperability Showcase with its own very large and busy room. A lot of ONC-related stuff was shoved back there if you made your way that far.

It’s hard to wrap my head around the vastness that is the HIMSS exhibit hall. There are literally tons of vendors, with big and expensive booths, that I have never heard of and don’t know what they do. It’s just a broad industry, and HIMSS is reflective of this broadness.

Like all other years, there was party overload in the evenings. This is not new for 2014. HIStalkapalooza is the clear winner if you’re lucky enough to get an invite, but the number of other evening events seemed bigger than past years.

Having parties spread out in the vicinity of the convention center and Downtown Disney made getting around even more difficult. Was I was the only one who planned on attending even events then just didn’t get there because it was too much of a pain to get a ride across town? I felt like this was a lot easier in Vegas a couple years ago, but I guess parties are in the Vegas DNA.

In terms of location, Orlando is not my favorite place. I grew up in Florida and still have family in the area, but I’m not the biggest fan of the city. There are logistics challenges any time you have that many people in one place, but Orlando is so sprawling that I felt like driving and getting around was a massive pain. We weren’t staying within walking distance since we booked late and used Airbnb, so driving or taking a taxi around was not fun.

I’m partial to New Orleans because I really love the city, but I know housing last year was a problem for many people. At least Orlando was warm and that means a lot for the many Wisconsin HIT folks like me who woke up back home to negative temperatures. Orlando does has more than enough hotel space. As long as there isn’t a blizzard, I’m really looking forward to Chicago next year. I like the city and there is pretty easy transport around.

I wanted to include some of the more fun descriptions I heard this week of what HIMSS is all about. Everybody likes to hate on things, HIMSS included, so take these with a grain of salt.

  • Marathon for your liver
  • A cluster
  • Logistics nightmare
  • Necessary evil
  • A place you have to be
  • A racket
  • HIT gone wild

I’d love to hear what others thought of HIMSS 14. See everybody next April in Chicago.

TGphoto

 

Travis Good is an MD/MBA and co-founder of Catalyze. More about me.

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