HIMSS 2016 Hangover

After spending six days in Las Vegas at HIMSS 2016, I am finally at a point where I can provide some thoughts on the conference.

First of all, a word or two about the venue. Las Vegas is one of those places most people either love or hate. It can provide a great atmosphere for networking and socializing.  The Strip has plenty of restaurants, lounges, and entertainment where vendors can host as many customers and prospects as they want. On the other hand, it can be exhausting, as if HIMSS in itself is not exhausting enough; it can take a toll on vendors and attendees alike. In my mind, it’s a great place to host HIMSS as long as one can be disciplined (good luck with that).

For us at Mobile Heartbeat, it was great having a booth directly across from our friends at HISTalk. The very kind and interesting folks from HISTalk posted some nice words about the growing interest from providers to modernize clinical communications and placed a picture of our consistently busy booth traffic on their website.

I heard attendance was down this year by three or four percent, but I couldn’t really tell by the amount of foot traffic that came by our booth, which was located in the far back corner of the main, upper level exhibit hall. Fortunately, we did not have a booth in the lower level Hall G, which I affectionately called “the dungeon.” There must have been 20 or more so-called HIPAA-compliant secure text messaging vendors in this area, 70% of which will probably be defunct in a year (according to at least one analyst prognostication).

I spent some time with Tim Gee, a frequent blogger on Clinical Communication & Collaboration and host of the Medical Connectivity website. We discussed the alarm management & messaging market and the emerging need to have a platform that will coexist with other mobile apps while providing interoperability with the many hospital information systems. We also spoke at length about the mistake many providers are making today by investing in a secure text-only vendor when meaningful clinical communications requires much more than just secure texting.

The big buzzwords this year were Population Health, Big Data, Cybersecurity and Patient Engagement. Mobile Health was also tossed around quite a bit. I wasn’t able to attend the speaking sessions, but I’m guessing Michael Dell, Mitt Romney and Peyton Manning used plenty of these buzzwords during their talks. It would have been a great public relations day for HIMSS if Peyton had mentioned he was going to retire during his HIMSS speech instead of doing it two days later.

What worked: This year we had more planned and scheduled meetings than any previous HIMSS conference. The usual attendee modus operandi is to schedule ad hoc meetings or just stop by and hope you are willing to spend time with them as if they are the only prospect your company has. Fortunately this year, we were able to fill our first two days with scheduled demonstrations, which resulted in quality time with our customers and prospects. It was interesting to see some of our neighboring booths, especially the large ones, with so much empty space and lacking visitors. I wonder if they will continue to invest in HIMSS with such a potentially low ROI.

What didn’t work: Finding people based on booth number. The numbering scheme was… well, there really wasn’t a numbering scheme. I had several folks tell me it took 20 minutes just to find our booth. When I searched for some of our partners like Cisco, CDW and Ascom, I often ended up smack in the middle of the Epic booth without trying.

Biggest challenge: Having to walk through the casino floor on my way to the exhibit hall. I am by no means a compulsive gambler, but having to endure people screaming “I won” on my way to work was just too much.

Biggest regret: Not ordering a tank of coffee for our booth. Waiting in line at Starbucks, or worse, waiting in line at the exhibit hall concession stand for expensive, bad coffee was enough to make me plan differently for next year.

All in all, it was a successful conference for Mobile Heartbeat. The 10 people we had in attendance in our booth presented and demoed the MH-CURE Clinical Communications and Collaboration solution to hundreds of customers, prospects, partners, investors and press. As much hard work as it was, we had a good time as well. Looking forward to HIMSS 2017!

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