Last week I, along with a coworker, attended the 2012 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS12) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Held at the Sands Convention and Expo Center attached to the Venetian and Palazzo hotels, it was host to over 35,000 attendees from the healthcare industry including doctors, nurses, and a whole lot of IT folks.  While the largest numbers of these attendees were from the United States, there were also hundreds and maybe thousands of attendees from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East as well as Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America.

In addition to the veritable swarm of attendees, there were also over 1,100 vendors present offering products ranging from EHR (Electronic Health Record) systems to desktop and network hardware to medical devices of all kinds; even many consulting companies who assist in the installation and maintenance of these items were present.  Booths ranged in size from about 100 square feet up to what felt like an acre in the case of some of the larger companies.

The educational sessions were very diverse, while focusing on topics that affect healthcare and healthcare IT professionals the most.  Because my company is in the process of deciding on an EHR, I focused primarily on sessions that discussed tips, tricks, and lessons learned in selecting, implementing, and sustaining an EHR.  My coworker focused primarily on security-themed sessions, like those revolving around HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) act, as that is his forte.  There were also sessions for those interested in mobile health technology, ICD10, quality of care, military healthcare, and many others.  Sessions ranged from lecture-style to roundtable and even several e-sessions available on banks of computers.  They were often led or taught by peers who had experience in the areas covered but there were many “knowledge center” sessions taught by vendors.

Overall, the sessions I attended were of good quality; I learned quite a bit throughout the week.  It will, of course, take probably another week to re-read the slides of the sessions I attended (most of which are available for download), read the slides or watch the video from the sessions I was unable to attend due to conflict with my first choices, and organize my notes.

Of course, not every city has the facility or the infrastructure to hold over 35,000 visitors in a relatively small space and Las Vegas was strained to contain us all.  Experiences such as overwhelmed mobile phone towers and hotel wireless Internet plagued most attendees and traveling from one education session to another was often overwhelming to say the least.  The Sands is laid out as a 5 story conference center with only two escalators going in either direction between floors.  The more you neared the main level, the more congested it became.  In addition, restaurants and coffee shops were often overwhelmed around mealtimes and just before the conferences started for the day.

If you missed this year’s conference, you can still attend (in a manner of speaking) via the HIMSS12 Virtual Events.  Otherwise, next year’s HIMSS conference is going to be held in New Orleans, LA from March 3-7 – returning to the usual Sunday-Thursday schedule of previous years.  Hopefully the city’s mobile phone network can handle everyone, and the HIMSS organizers plan for a denser wireless blanket in the convention center.  Based on my experience this year, it should nevertheless be an educational time for those in healthcare.

Did you attend HIMSS12?  Share your thoughts and feedback with us below.  Are you planning on attending HIMSS13?  What do you hope to get from next year’s conference the most?