HIMSS15 survival guide
"Drinking from the firehose” doesn't begin to do justice to the experience of HIMSS15. It’s more like swallowing Lake Michigan. Networking with 38,000 colleagues? Attending 200 live education sessions? Hoofing it over 1.3 million square feet of exhibits? My feet hurt already!
Sure, the HIMSS Annual Conference experience can be daunting. But it doesn’t need to be. Every year, successful survivors return home armed with strategies and tactics that set their institution’s technology agenda for the year. They’ve identified vendors to help them deploy solutions to improve care and reduce cost. And they carry the warm glow of rekindled friendships and collegial recognition. They’ll be the ones smiling on the planes out of O’Hare.
How do they do it? How do they pick the right education session when a half-dozen can’t-miss presentations are scheduled at the same time? How do they navigate a year’s worth of real-time technology demos shoehorned into four days, and attend more after-hours networking opportunities than can be cured with a bottle of Pepto, a handful of Tylenol, and pot of black coffee?
Bottom line: they don’t just attend Annual Conference. They own it. Even if you’re a HIMSS veteran, there are a few strategies that can transform your show experience from a sometimes brutal test of endurance to a masterful demonstration of planning and foresight.
1. Identify in advance the problems you need to solve and focus your planning on them when you arrive. To use a technology metaphor, ”browse” before you go and “search” when you’re there. If you have the luxury of a team, plan your schedules collaboratively and avoid overlap. Keep and share notes. For planning, this Buyer’s Guide has maps and a list of all Exhibit Hall locations for your reference. If you have access to a web browser, you can always use the HIMSS15 website. And when you’re on the go, you can use the HIMSS15 Mobile App. You’ll find it in the iTunes store by searching HIMSS15.
2. Think of Annual Conference as a multiyear opportunity and prioritize the new. Given that you cannot possibly do and see it all, avoid repeating yourself. Did you go to the Interoperability Showcase last year? Try the interactive Cybersecurity Command Center (where you can try out your forensics skills) or the inaugural HX360 event, which focuses on reinventing care delivery with advanced, next-generation technology. Both are going to be amazing, idea-inducing experiences.
3. Reserve your seats. Some activities at annual conference aren’t "general admission.” Take the Venture+ Forum or Mobile Health Symposium, both on Sunday, for example. Seats are limited and separate registration is required. Planning a tour of the new Intelligent Health Pavilion, which includes a 1,800 square foot, fully furnished demonstration home alongside the nine-room Intelligent Hospital? Arrive early to schedule your visit.
4. Your watch is your friend, but your smartphone is your ally. Seriously. Schedule at least 15 minutes between appointments on the exhibit hall floor. Set automatic alerts on your phone to signal the ends of meetings and appointments, and obey them. Avoid the cascading effect of “running just a few minutes late.” Get to popular “Views from the Top” or keynotes like that of President George Bush early in order to get a good seat.
5. Speaking of the former president, you can thank him – in person on April 15th, no less – for some of the growth in the HIMSS Annual Conference. Back in 2004, annual conference attracted less than 20,000 attendees and 676 exhibitors. Ho-hum… In January, 2004, President George Bush said, in his State of the Union address, "By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs and improve care.” He then set a 10-year goal of ensuring that most Americans would have an electronic health record. By 2012, attendance at annual conference hit 37,000, the number of vendors exceeded 1,100 and HIMSS had almost tripled its membership rolls to 46,433. It will be interesting to hear what the former President has to say about this extraordinary transformation when he gives a keynote address on April 15 at 4:30.
6. Be forewarned. Most HIMSS15 hotels are downtown or in the Chicago Loop. McCormick Place is not. Cab lines can be really long. Shuttle buses are frequent and free. Plan ahead and you can turn that commute into productive time. Schedule trips with people you know. Try networking with your fellow travelers. And think about scheduling a meeting during a scheduled trip. From personal experience I can tell you that it can work. And if you have nothing else planned, pick up a HIIMSS15 Daily Insider newspaper from one of the publication bins. They’re free and will be published Monday thru Wednesday.
7. Go to the keynotes. Significant news is often made by these speakers who are leaders in the industry. The most famous speaker, President Bush, is on Wednesday at 4:30 pm but the other keynotes are involved in some of the major trends affecting healthcare IT, and you’re sure to benefit from their presentations. Alexander Gourlay, President of Walgreens, will talk about changes in the way consumers obtain healthcare on Monday at 8:00 am. On Tuesday at 8:30 am, Bruce D. Broussard, CEO of Humana, will talk about a healthcare future driven by consumer choice. On Thursday at 8:30, Karen DeSalvo, MD, National Coordinator for Health IT and Acting Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will share her perspective from the highest level of the federal government. And at 1:15 on Thursday, Jeremy Gutsche, author of Exploiting Chaos and the founder of Trendhunter.com will talk about how to organizations need to continue innovating and how to identify opportunities within your own organization to move ahead and avoid stagnation.
8. Recommended equipment. Includes sneakers; ear plugs for bus naps; FitBit or other wearable for Wellness Challenge; bottle of Tylenol, aspirin, etc; Pepto Bismol; cords and extended battery for phones and tablets; and a shipping box for the books, brochures, handouts and tchotchkes you acquire. It’s far better to ship all of those valuable materials than to carry them home on the plane. And don’t leave them behind. They can be valuable tools in your work throughout the year and can be shared with colleagues who didn’t make the trip.
9. Work hard and play hard (within reason). You are in Chicago, one of the greatest cities in the world. Amazing architecture. Top American cuisine. Awesome theater, comedy and shows. Get dinner in one of the city’s several rooftop restaurants (my favorite is the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center). Spend an extra day in the city and check out either, or both, the Field Museum of Natural History or the Art Institute of Chicago. Visit Comiskey (White Sox are at home on the 11th and 12th) or Wrigley Field (the Cubs are home on April 13-15). If you absolutely can’t get out of McCormick, have fun at the HIMSS15 block party featuring food and drink from famous (and infamous) Chicago neighborhoods such as Wrigleyville, Greektown, Little Italy, and Pilsen. It’s on Wednesday from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm in the Vista Ballroom.
10. Share tips. Before, during and after, plug into the social media activity that surround Annual Conference. Be a tweeter, status poster, pinner or liker and help the conference set another record for social media activity — but more importantly, help others navigate the show successfully. On Twitter, look for the hashtag #HIMSS15. On LinkedIn, participate in the HIMSS group.
And lastly, don’t forget this: Smile on the plane out of O’Hare. Even if you are exhausted, your colleagues will know that you just dominated HIMSS15.