Next week is HIMSS’21, which will be live and in-person in COVID hotspot Las Vegas. The HIMSS organization must be triple crossing its fingers now, hoping all will go as well as can be expected. It won’t be easy.

As I write this, I think back to HIMSS’20 and how abruptly, but in retrospect correctly, organizers called the whole thing off due to rising COVID case counts. Sadly, a year and a half later, we now have “a pandemic among the unvaccinated,” as the CDC put it. Las Vegas, which is as hot as an oven in August – believe me, I’ve been there – is a COVID hotspot as well, with local hospitals at full capacity. This was the primary reason I myself will not be attending, as a health condition puts me in the high-risk category despite being fully vaccinated.

But I seriously doubt HIMSS will cancel the event next week for one simple reason: It cannot afford not to have the event. While over the years HIMSS has expanded and diversified its revenue stream, it is still highly dependent on conference revenue, with its annual HIMSS conference as the mothership, and typically hosts numerous subconferences throughout the year. All of that went into the loss revenue column in 2020 and on into first half of 2021.

So What Can We Expect at HIMSS’21?

Manage your expectations now, as I believe HIMSS’21 will be a very slow show. Last I heard, registration is less than half that of HIMSS’19, and this year’s registration numbers includes those that will attend virtually. I’d be willing to bet that HIMSS’21 will be lucky if it sees a third of the onsite registrants it saw in 2019.

Exhibitor numbers are also down significantly. In 2019, HIMSS had roughly 1,350 exhibitors. This year, we are looking at a total of 738 – down 45%. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt – a lot, especially as virtually all conferences are supported by exhibitors and sponsors, not registration fees.

Yes, numbers don’t look too good a week out, but what I’m most concerned with is: Will provider organizations decide not to send their employees to HIMSS’21? This is a genuine concern for these organizations as many are under the strain of the Delta-variant in their regions and would be reluctant to send employees under those conditions. Combine that with Las Vegas being a COVID hotspot, and it is an easy no-go decision for these provider organizations to make. Exhibitors are responding in kind, and I have heard from a number of them that they are significantly scaling back attendance.

I expect that HIMSS’21 will be a lot of vendors talking to one another as few end users will be there, and even fewer decision makers. However, it may also be a good opportunity for research companies, such as ours, as vendors seek to promote their message beyond the restricted reach of this year’s HIMSS. It is also a great opportunity for our analysts to have far deeper conversations with these companies as to what they are seeing in the market. This is always helpful for our in-depth research efforts, but may also prove instructive as we map out our research calendar for the next 12-18 months.

Therefore, we will have a small team there in attendance. My son, John Moore III, who leads our growth strategy, will be there along with analysts Alex Lennox-Miller, who just published the well-received Virtual Care Management report and Brian Murphy, our guru on all things interop and author of our latest report on the topic, Integration Infrastructure. If you wish to meet with any of the above, please contact Liz Hughes, liz_at_chilmarkresearch_dot_com

My Recommendations for Attending

Make the most of the event and strike up conversations readily. HIMSS has always been a fabulous networking event and I’m a bit saddened not to be able to attend. Thankfully, HIMSS’22 is not that far away.

Reach across the aisle. Sure, that may be your competitor across the hall, but that does not make them your enemy. Remember, we are all in this market to help improve the delivery of care and frankly, the health IT sector has simply not done enough. We all need to work together to overcome the inertia in this industry if we truly want to improve patient outcomes and the efficiency of health systems. That begins with you and I and everyone else in this market, regardless of which company you represent.

Be very careful – stay safe. HIMSS’21 is now requesting all attendees to wear masks at all times inside the event – good move, HIMSS. But don’t let your guard down once you step outside the HIMSS enclave. Wear your mask at all times indoors in Las Vegas and keep your distance outdoors. Just because you’re vaccinated does not mean you’re immune to COVID, as seen in the recent outbreak in Barnstable County, MA, where some 74% of those that got COVID were fully vaccinated.

While I will miss reconnecting with many a friend and colleague at HIMSS’21, I pray that by March 2022 we can truly state that this seemingly never-ending pandemic is truly behind us. Till that time, may all have a safe and enjoyable remainder of summer. I’m looking forward to the time when we will once again be together, face-to-face, seeking ways we can each contribute to improving the delivery of care in the US and across the world.

Peace and blessings,

John