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HIMSS16 Survival Guide: What you need to know now

As record crowds are expected at the big conference, these essential details should help you plan your time in Las Vegas.
By Gus Venditto
03:15 AM
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Huge crowds filled the exhibition hall at HIMSS15 in Chicago.

HIMSS16 is shaping up to be the largest gathering of healthcare IT professionals ever assembled. It will build on a tradition that began in 1993 with just 4,000 attendees and continues to grow steadily. Last year’s conference drew more than 43,000 professionals to Chicago.  And even more are expected to attend this year’s conference in Las Vegas.

As veteran conference-goers know, once the conference begins, sanity becomes a precious commodity. Schedules are difficult to maintain. Navigation between point A and point B suddenly becomes a challenge.

The effort must be worth it. Veteran attendees continue to make it an annual pilgrimage.

See all of our HIMSS16 previews

So in the interest of keeping you sane while you pack as much networking and education into your allotted time, here are some tips to help you get the most from your time in Las Vegas.

Tip One: The shuttle is free

Las Vegas has plenty of taxi cabs but you don’t need to spend your expense account on car fare. HIMSS provides a free shuttle service from most hotels during regular conference hours. You’ll find the schedule here. There is even free transportation to the airport.

Tip Two: Know the territory

There will be more than 1,300 vendors exhibiting in the Sands Expo, spread out over 3 levels. The exhibit space will occupy over 1.3 million square feet of space. That’s equivalent to 22 NFL size football fields. Spend some time reviewing the Exhibit Hall map before you step off the shuttle bus and find yourself blinded by the sea of bright lights.

Level One, which is also marked as Hall G of the Exhibit Hall, is the exhibit area you will encounter when you arrive at the main transportation outlet, which is where buses will stop. This exhibit hall contains the higher-numbered exhibits, Booths 9600 - 13999. Here you’ll find hundreds of exhibits and many specialty exhibit areas such as the Connected Health Experience, Cybersecurity Command Center, Federal Health Pavilion, HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, Intelligent Health Pavilion, Clinical & Business Intelligence, Population Health, Disaster Preparedness, Revenue Cycle and University Row. 

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Level Two, up the escalators, is where you’ll find booths 100 – 8599 including many of the large Anchor Exhibitors, First Time Exhibitors and many HIMSS exhibits including:  HIMSS Analytics, HIMSS Bookstore, HIMSS Media, HIMSS Spot and the new HIMSS16 Living Room, a meeting space where you can relax and meet other members.

Level Three is home to HX360 and exhibit space marked from 30001 – 38006. This level contains all HX360 programs and activities, including the Innovation Leaders Program, the Executive Program and the Innovation Pavilion, Start-up Showcase and the Venture+ Forum. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to the Executive Program, this is where you’ll find Former Utah Gov. Mitt Romney, who is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, March 2.

Tip Three: Plan your education carefully

The education begins first thing Monday, February 29 at 8 a.m. sharp. The Pre-Conference Symposia run throughout the day, organized around specific educational topics, but they all conclude by 5:30 p.m., in time for the opening keynote presentation, a joint session with Michael Dell, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dell Inc. and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of Health & Human Services. The exhibit hall is not open Monday, so you will be able to focus on educational sessions. But when the exhibit hall is open Tuesday through Thursday, the choices will be more difficult.

Over 300 educational sessions take place in ballrooms located adjacent to the Exhibit Hall area; they are all listed here. In addition, there are over 80 educational sessions presented on the exhibit hall floor as part of the Knowledge Centers; you’ll find a guide here

Tip Four: Expand your social circle

The last “S” in HIMSS stands for “society” so don’t be anti-social. This is a prime opportunity to form new professional relationships. Everyone taking the shuttle bus or waiting for a session to start shares a common interest with you, so seize the opportunity to make a new friend.

Gatherings take place every evening and they start on Monday. After the keynote ends Monday at 7 p.m., follow the very big crowd as everyone makes their way to the first party of HIMSS16: an Exhibit Hall opening reception from 7 to 8 p.m., open to all registered attendees. Wine and cheese will be served.

For the official directory of networking opportunities, visit the HIMSS16 Conference website networking section.

Tip Five: The HIMSS16 Mobile app knows where you’re going

Advance preparation will get you only so far. Once you’re at the conference, you’ll still want help finding your way around. The HIMSS16 Mobile App provides the location of all exhibitors and educational sessions. Looking for food services? They’re listed. Need to find the luggage check? Ditto. Shuttle bus schedule, shipping services, re-charging stations, they’re all listed and easy to find.

And the app also has a new way to network: an activity feed where attendees share updates and photos, and see what other people are up to. You’ll find the app in the iTunes store or Google Play by searching for HIMSS.

Here are a few maps of the floorplan.

Twitter: @GusVenditto


This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the HIMSS16 conference. Follow our live blog for real-time updates, and visit Destination HIMSS16 for a full rundown of our reporting from the show. For a selection of some of the best social media posts of the show, visit our Trending at #HIMSS16 hub.

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