HIMSS18 Survival Guide: How to get the most out of this year's show

HIMSSsanity is here. Embrace it. Just don’t let the time slip away for lack of preparation.
By Tom Sullivan
02:57 PM
HIMSS18 survival guide

Whether you love or loathe Sin City there’s little disputing that the annual HIMSS health IT conference is a blast. Indeed, with HIMSS18 coming up quickly it’s never too soon to start planning how best to spend your time — because history suggests the show will zip by and, just like that, you’ll be boarding a plane to get back home.  

Don’t let the hours slip away without getting exactly what you want out of the conference. The best way to avoid that, of course: proper planning.

Here are some suggestions from a veteran HIMSS-goer.

Basic logistics. For the uninitiated, HIMSS18 will be taking place in the Venetian – Palazzo – Sands Expo Convention Center. The official opening and closing dates are March 5 to 9. The first day features the CIO Forum and symposia for nursing informatics and physician executives. We at HIMSS Media are also hosting five daylong events: Cloud Computing Forum, Digital and Personal Connected Health, Machine Learning and AI for Healthcare, Patient Engagement and Experience Summit, and Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit; all are in the Wynn Hotel.

Former Google and Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt will deliver the opening keynote at 5 p.m. Monday, Vegas time, in the Palazzo Ballroom. Schmidt’s address, “Technology for a healthier future: Modernization, machine learning and moonshots,” will be followed by the lavish HIMSS18 opening reception, free to all registered attendees. You need not even RSVP for that one.

Take in the nightlife. Depending upon when you arrive in Vegas, the opening reception may or may not be the first party – but one thing it’s clearly not is the last. Tuesday, March 6 at 5 in Palazzo M, for instance, is the HIMSS Communities Carnival replete with snacks, beverages, gambling and games. The HIMSS Living Room also features a Social Hour 5:30-6:30 p.m.   March 6 with a cash bar. Also on Tuesday is the Millennial’s reception, which costs $45 but takes place in the Paris Hotel HEXX Kitchen + Bar.

Wednesday evening features some exclusive invite-only events, such as the Fellows Reception, Federal Health Community Public Health Reception, as well as the Women in Health IT and International Receptions, which are open to the public for $45. And Thursday is the prestigious Awards Gala.

Be social. As if those and other parties are not enough to keep HIMSS-goers busy day and night, there’s still plenty of socializing to do online. Twitter and LinkedIn are already abuzz with HIMSS18 happenings and that will only heat up as the show gets closer and then hits fever pitch during the conference week itself. #HIMSS18 is the main hashtag but it’s hardly the only one. Rather, there are nearly two-dozen relevant hashtags, so here are some of the most popular: #Aim2Innovate, #Engage4Health, #EmpowerHIT, #GovHIT, #IHeartHIT, #Nurses4HIT, #PutData2Work, #RethinkRCM and not least #WomenInHIT, to name just a few.

[Also: The official HIMSS18 hashtag guide]

Download the app. Install the official HIMSS18 app ahead to the conference so there’s time to familiarize yourself with it. This year’s iteration features scheduling, maps, wayfinding features, information about education sessions and plenty of social media opportunities to put those aforementioned hashtags to work and connect with colleagues and friends.

Education sessions. The hundreds of education sessions throughout the Expo Center are an indispensable part of the HIMSS experience for everyone from CEOs and CIOs to IT pros, nurses, doctors, payers and, of course, investors. So it follows that this year’s educational sessions focus on clinical and business intelligence, emerging payment models, interoperability and health information exchange, informatics, security as well as innovation and investment, among other pressing and emerging issues.

Among the always interesting education sessions are so-called Views from the Top and the HIMSS18 roster does not disappoint. Take CMS Administrator Seema Verma, for instance. She’s scheduled to take the Stage at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. And then there’s Boston Police Chief Daniel Linsky, who was the Incident Commander during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Another highlight is Shannan Moynihan, MD, Deputy Chief of Space and Occupational Medicine and Deputy Chief Medical Officer at NASA, who will discuss treating astronauts in space.

Getting around the free and easy way. While taxi drivers congregate around the convention center and all the hotels, experienced HIMSS attendees also know that free shuttle buses ferry passengers back and forth between hotels and the convention center — so save your transportation budget for late-night or off-site adventures.

Save time for exploring to find the unexpected. The show floor is massive. With approximately 1,300 exhibitors, it’s wise to pick up or download a map if you don’t download the app, chart a course to the highlights and, take this from a reporter who makes the same mistake year after year, don’t book appointments and meetings too close together, timewise. Instead, give yourself time to wander, find things that surprise you, run into old friends or meet new people. The show floor opens at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — and stays open until 6 p.m. the first two days, then closes at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Most of all be sure to have fun this year. See you in Vegas!

HIMSS18 Preview

An inside look at the innovation, education, technology, networking and key events at the HIMSS18 global conference in Las Vegas.

Twitter: SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com