Annual HIMSS conference expects solid growth

FRAMINGHAM (02/19/2004) - Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) officials anticipate 20,500 people and 715 vendors will be networking and demonstrating the latest healthcare technology wares at next week's annual conference and exhibition at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The new figures mark 6 percent and 4 percent increases, respectively, over the 2003 conference, which drew 19,300 attendees and 686 exhibitors.

This year's conference features high-profile speakers, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and author Tom Wolfe. Tommy Thompson, Department of Health and Human Services secretary, was scheduled to speak but bailed out, blaming a schedule conflict, according to Karen Malone, HIMSS director of meetings. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who will be introducing a new healthcare legislation, will replace him.

"Our numbers (for attendees and exhibitors) are up from last year, and I think that can partially be attributed to the location and an improving economy," Malone said. "We are also noticing that more institutions, like hospitals and healthcare systems, are planning on attending, and these are sending more people."

Malone said there are a number of "mini-themes" heading into next week's gathering, such as electronic medical record initiatives, advances in mobile computing for healthcare, and the after-effects of President George W. Bush's recent State of the Union address in which he said computerizing health records could help the healthcare industry "avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care."

More than 300 exhibitors will be there for the first time, Malone said. That also implies nearly half of those exhibiting last year will not return in 2004.

Several healthcare technology vendors will be announcing new products and applications, including Siemens Medical Solutions, Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc., Sprint Corp., Nortel Networks Corp., NEC Corp., Medstat, iMedica Corp., Healthlink Inc., PKWARE Inc., Lexmark International Inc., Tempus Software Inc., and SeeBeyond Technology Corp. And some will be simply demonstrating existing products.

The main exhibit floor will comprise demonstrations, focusing on electronic medical records, ambulatory care, clinical systems, patient safety, and security. New products will be showcased in a separate area.

Another exhibit will emphasize "Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE)/Health Level 7 (HL7)" software, focusing on system interoperability. U.S. healthcare agencies at the show will include the departments of commerce and agriculture, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

User group meetings will also be part of the conference for the first time, with the Microsoft Healthcare Users Group (MS-HUG), Sun Microsystems Sunshine Group, and an Oracle Corp.-sponsored industry forum scheduled to get together. These meetings are for attendees who currently use (or have an interest in) the companies' healthcare technology offerings.

On Sunday, HIMSS and the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) will gather for a physician's IT symposium, focusing on "adoption of IT in clinical settings," according to the HIMSS conference Web site at http://conference.himss.org/ASP/index.asp.

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