The show must go on. On Friday, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s leadership announced that its annual meeting will be an in-person event next summer.
HIMSS discussed its plans to host its annual meeting, which draws thousands of attendees annually, during a media call. The event, which was originally slated for March, will be now held August 9-13 in Las Vegas.
“We’re hopeful and we really believe, talking to many of the epidemiologists, that we have a very good chance for what we believe will be a tremendous celebration, a joyous reunion,” Hal Wolf, HIMSS CEO, said during the call. He added that the organization felt like March posed too much of a risk due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Wolf said planning for HIMSS21 is underway but that the organization plans to set up appropriate safety protocols if the pandemic is still an issue next summer.
“We’re going to have to think very carefully as we come up on it about how will we handle the traffic flow and the design of the floor to make sure it’s meeting the criteria based on where we are at at that time,” he said.
Looking back, looking ahead
HIMSS20 was canceled this year due to COVID-19 one weekend before the start of the conference, which was to be held in Orlando. Since then, exhibitors and attendees have expressed disappointment with how the 80,000-member organization handled the cancellation. During the call, Wolf addressed some of the fallout from the HIMSS20 cancellation, as well as how it is planning for HIMSS21.
For HIMSS21, Wolf said paid attendee registration from last year’s show will transfer over. Additional remedies for exhibitors, universities and startups announced in April will also be applied to next year’s conference.
Wolf also provided rationale as to how the organization handled the HIMSS20 cancellation. He said that components of the HIMSS contracts, including the force majeure clause, meant that HIMSS was not responsible for issuing refunds. Regardless, it provided some options, such as giving exhibitors a chance to apply a percentage of their spend to future HIMSS conferences.
The organization plans to come forward with additional remedies once the insurance claim has been settled, Wolf said. He added that he doesn’t foresee a repeat of HIMSS20, even if next year’s event is canceled. HIMSS will invest in virtual programs throughout 2021 by building a new virtual platform and working on a year-round program called HIMSS365.
“If 21 were not to happen, it wouldn’t be the same situation as 20 because 21 really is going to be an incredible blend between the physical event and the virtual events that the new HIMSS platform is allowing us to do and we see ways forward between the two environments,” he said.
Due to COVID-19, most healthcare conferences were canceled this year, including the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting at the end of November. RSNA will replace its in-person event, which draws more than 50,000 attendees annually, with a virtual program.