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Preparing for a Productive #HIMSS19

The Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference is a few short weeks away. Leaders and influencers at health systems, IT vendors, health insurers, government agencies, and patient advocacy groups are preparing for a week of meetings, meetups, and learning opportunities in Orlando.

Though I’ve been to HIMSS several times as a journalist and industry analyst, this will be my first year attending as a content strategist with ReviveHealth – and my second as one of the event’s 20 Social Media Ambassadors. Before I leave the cold of Boston for the sun of Orlando, I thought I would share some thoughts on what I’m excited to see at HIMSS19 and how I’m planning to spend my time.

What is a HIMSS Social Media Ambassador?

The HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors raise awareness of health IT topics and influencers through productive social media engagement. We leverage the crowd gathered at HIMSS and our combination of health IT expertise and social media savviness to share insight about the people, process, and technology that will drive transformation in health IT. Our efforts focus primarily on the HIMSS conference, but we also participate in Tweet chats and other activities to keep the conversation going throughout the year.

It’s a busy few days, to be sure, but we also take the time to get interviewed on HIMSSTV, take selfies, and cover The Beatles (badly in my case).

What I’m Excited to See at HIMSS19

The theme for this year’s HIMSS conference is “Champions of Health Unite.” I like this approach. Typically, the conversation at HIMSS turns to specific technology topics such as big data, security, interoperability, and patient engagement. This places the focus on technology and process but draws attention away from people.

“Champions of Health Unite” shifts the focus squarely to the people – the work they do, the challenges they face, the success they achieve, and the factors that motivate them to wake up and go to work in a field as challenging as healthcare. Technology and process are by no means unimportant, but it’s ultimately people who inspire innovation, change, and action. I’m excited to see how these stories are told at the HIMSS conference and throughout the year.

Here are a few other things I am excited to learn more about at HIMSS19:

  • How healthcare stakeholders are talking to patients. So much healthcare communication is either transactional or informational in nature. However, many patients benefit more from communication that is ongoing and emotional, especially if they have multiple and/or complex chronic conditions. (Hat tip to ReviveHealth Vice President of Social Media Stephanie Wierwille for pointing me to the research that brought this to my attention.) Are any champions of health leading the charge to meet this need?    
  • What messages dominate the conversation. Given this year’s HIMSS theme, one may anticipate more emphasis on people-centric phrases. Will vendors and health systems shift their messaging accordingly? Or will they stick to the more traditional focus on process and technology terms – dare I say jargon – that has driven the conversation at HIMSS for the last several years?
  • Who is truly addressing healthcare’s critical needs. Two years ago, Chief Growth Officer Shannon McIntyre Hooper described lackluster sales and marketing efforts at large trade shows such as HIMSS – a focus on volume, poor insight into customer’s journeys, and pushy sales efforts. Who can rise above these practices to articulate how they deliver real value tied to the specific needs of healthcare stakeholders?
  • You! No, seriously. I want to meet you – and not just to fulfill the unofficial Social Media Ambassador selfie quota. Many of the lasting relationships I have built in health IT began at HIMSS. Stop by the Social Media Ambassador meet-up on Tuesday or say hello if you happen to see me wandering around the convention center.

First-Time HIMSS Attendee Tips

HIMSS is a large event, with more than 45,000 attendees, 400 educational sessions, and 1,300 exhibitors. Many vendor booths are larger than the typical Boston-area apartment (and have more electrical outlets to boot).

The experience can be overwhelming, so here are some general tips from someone who has attended HIMSS several times.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to cover several miles each day. No one will judge you if you wear a suit and sneakers. Save the dress shoes for your evening events.
  • Go in with a to-do list. Identify the people and organizations you want to talk to. Start to reach out before the event to schedule meetings. If you can’t do that, make an effort to find them onsite. (Social media helps here, hint hint.)
  • Space out your meetings. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings are hard enough when you’re not walking a quarter-mile in between. Give yourself time to get around.
  • Schedule some downtime. Don’t feel obligated to cram every minute of your day (and night) with meetings, educational sessions, or activities. This will exhaust even the most extroverted of extroverts. Take some time to wander, explore, or just relax.
  • Bring a water bottle and fill it every chance you get. As much as it pains me to admit, one cannot live on coffee alone.
  • When you see healthy snacks, pounce. Otherwise you will spend the day grazing on candy and pastry – which, as much as it pains me to admit once again, is not as fun as it sounds.
  • Don’t forget to follow up. Because HIMSS is a whirlwind, no one can remember everyone they met, formally or otherwise. Once you’ve adequately recovered, send some thank yous to everyone you spoke to – and keep the conversation going for the rest of the year.

See you in Orlando!

June 18, 2016
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