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RSNA 2014 draws more than 55,000 to Chicago

CHICAGO — Welcome to RSNA 2014, the biggest, baddest granddaddy or grandmommy of all medical shows.

Actually, the Radiological Society of North America  Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting — held in the Windy City for years — is one of the biggest trade shows of any kind in the world.

This mega-show, with its dozens of panel sessions and hundreds of peer-reviewed academic and medical papers, dwarfs the dominant show of the health IT industry — the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference & Exhibition, although about a sixth of RSNA is devoted to health IT.

Most of the vendor exhibitors are selling the latest and greatest machines for performing radiology, offering one-stop shopping for physicians and healthcare system executives to look around the teeming exhibit floor, get hands-on demonstrations, make purchases or form valuable business relationships.

But with the rapidly increasing roles of advanced data visualization, informatics, and image sharing in radiology, health IT is a quickly growing presence within RSNA. RSNA is about four times the size of the sprawling HIMSS gathering, which will also be held in Chicago, in April 2015, in the same massive, often-confusing mini-city that is the McCormick Place convention center near the shores of Lake Michigan.

The action in some of the booths run by the big international companies that dominate the field — such as GE Healthcare, Royal Philips, Siemens AG and FujiFilm — can sometimes resemble a rock and roll performance. One exhibitor described the scene in her booth as like a frenetic mosh pit at a punk rock concert.

RSNA 2014 total attendance figures peaked at 55,555 during the middle of the show (on Dec. 4), a 5% increase over last year.

Of those, 20,782 were exhibitors; on Wednesday that number was down 2% from last year, the only attendance category to register a drop.

Guests numbered 6,288 — up 20% from 2013. And professionals, the radiologist and other physicians themselves, made up the largest segment of attendees, at 28,485, a 9% spike over 2013. The RSNA itself, though technically based in the U.S. and Canada, is actually international. It is a professional society with more than 54,000 members, mostly radiologists, medical physicists and other medical professionals, from 136 countries.

RSNA publishes two respected peer-reviewed journals: Radiology and RadioGraphics. And via its Research and Education Foundation, it funnels millions of dollars to up-and-coming researchers.

This is the historic RSNA show’s 100th year, believe it or not. RSNA celebrated its centennial with a special website, centennial showcase on the exhibition floor featuring a timeline of historical markers in the evolution of the group, and, of course, an array of parties and receptions.

If you’re in health IT, you owe it to yourself to experience the RSNA phenomenon.

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