Each year, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) brings together health IT professionals, executives, and vendors from all over the world to discuss best practices, share new innovations, customer challenges, and insights into the world of health IT. It is one of the biggest shows in the healthcare industry every year, with more than 45,000 attendees participating in hundreds of educational sessions and visiting with more than 1,200 exhibitors.
We recently spoke with Lisa Hines, former Director of Information Technology at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System and currently Business Pursuit Manager for NetApp Healthcare, to learn more about HIMSS and what attendees should prepare for and expect. Here’s what she had to share:
Future Healthcare Today (FHT): You’ll be heading to HIMSS 2019 soon. What are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference?
Lisa Hines (LH): I’m very interested in tracks and presentations that are focused on data and specifically the way we derive actionable insights to drive disruptive models of care. My attention will be on how technology transforms data into information for evaluation of the social, psychosocial, and behavioral determinants of health. Also, I am always excited to look at the innovation in entrepreneurship and will be looking for the innovative startups in the exhibit hall.
FHT: HIMSS is a huge show, and you’ve been there so many times; what are your secrets to navigating it?
LH: Some basic housekeeping rules that people sometimes forget are to wear comfortable shoes, especially in this year’s location – the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Also, be aware of non-essential distractions, such as being overly hungry, because you are booked with back-to-back sessions. You don’t want to hinder your ability to think because your stomach is roaring with hunger or you’re focused on how uncomfortable your shoes are. Also, be aware of the potential for varying temperatures in different areas of the convention center. If you’re uncomfortable, you’ll be distracted from your goals of learning and networking.
The purpose of HIMSS is education, so plan and avoid the mindset of, “I’ll figure it out when I get there.” This is a huge investment of time and, for many supporting organizations, it’s a huge investment of money as well. Hospital IT budgets are strapped, so if a hospital invests money for you to attend the conference, you need to be well prepared to take advantage of that opportunity. Also, the exhibit floor is massive, so it’s absolutely critical that you map out your meetings and schedule them, so it is possible for you to get from point A to point B in a timely manner. Planning is critical to optimizing the experience.
So, start with the end in mind; think ahead about what you personally want to gain from this conference, study the vendors who will be at HIMSS and determine which ones are of interest to you. Then make the effort to talk to them. Also, it is very important to know that there is no harm in asking questions. A lot of people go through the conference with the “Let me cruise by and listen to the two-minute elevator pitch and move on.” That shouldn’t be your intent. Take a moment to dig a little deeper than the elevator pitch, and you will be surprised at what you will learn.
FHT: What about how networking opportunities at HIMSS? Are there some good networking opportunities during the event that people should be aware of?
LH: I cannot possibly mention them all, because there are so many events and opportunities for networking. The HIMSS website has a wealth of information, including the event schedule and networking activities, so ensure you study that as you plan ahead. Having said that, there are two often overlooked opportunities for networking. One is looking for state and local chapters of HIMSS that are hosting an event. These are fantastic networking opportunities and offer smaller, more intimate opportunities to network with peers from the same geographic area with whom you may be able to continue to engage when you return home. Another opportunity is the informal interactions you may have standing in long lines, getting lunch, or on an elevator ride. Go ahead and strike up a conversation. HIMSS is almost a 24/7 networking opportunity. You do need your sleep, but it starts up early, typically around 7 a.m., and winds down around midnight. The networking is essentially nonstop.
FHT: What are some things you should try to actively avoid at HIMSS?
LH: As much as possible I would say to avoid the distractions that can be coming in from your office or at home, because it’s so easy to find yourself behind your laptop or on your mobile device reading emails or answering calls. These are distractions from why you’re there – learning and networking. I understand that there can be emergencies back in the office, but it’s also important to set a precedent with your colleagues that this is a fantastic opportunity and you are there to optimize the conference. One email or phone call quickly can turn into 20, and, then suddenly you’re late or miss a session altogether.
FHT: How can people find you at HIMSS?
LH: They can find me at the NetApp booth – Exhibition #2779. I am available for impromptu discussions around data-driven digital transformation and will be able to connect people to subject matter experts in their specific area of interest. I also will be at the NetApp hospitality events happening every day in our booth. And, as I mentioned, I also will be available in lines and while walking from point A to point B and looking for every opportunity to connect with new friends and also to reconnect with old friends in the industry as well.