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HIMSS17 Survival Guide: A strategy for conquering the health IT conference in Orlando

Essential details to help you get the most from your annual conference experience.
By Gus Venditto
07:28 AM
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HIMSS17 Survival Guide Orlando

It’s that time of year again. The center of gravity for healthcare IT will be shifting south to Orlando, Florida on February 19 when more than 40,000 professionals arrive for HIMSS17.

HIMSS veterans know that simply showing up to Annual Conference without a plan is a mistake. It’s true you can discover a lot that way but you’ll be missing even more.  

This survival guide will help you create an agenda for achieving your own personal goals for the Annual Conference.

Adjust your schedule
If you attended last year, be prepared for a different start day. This year, the schedule returns to a more familiar pattern. Pre-conference education starts first thing Sunday morning (last year, it began on Monday).  After a full day of deep dive sessions, Sunday’s schedule will end with a welcome reception in the exhibit hall from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Orange County Convention Center, West Building (9800 International Drive, Orlando, Florida).

On Monday morning, the opening keynote session will feature IBM CEO Ginni Rometty from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the Valencia Ballroom. Following the keynote, the exhibit hall opens and general education sessions begin, running concurrently every day until the exhibit hall closes late Wednesday afternoon. General education continues every day through Thursday afternoon. There will be two keynote sessions on Thursday: former Speaker of the House John Boehner at 8:30 a.m. and the Shark Tank entrepreneurs Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec will close the conference with the final keynote, beginning at 4 p.m.

Check the full conference schedule for a complete picture.

Be sure to pre-register for special events
Registration for the conference will give you access to hundreds of education sessions taking place Monday through Thursday. But there are more than a dozen specialty events that require an additional registration.

There will be sessions on professional development topics, innovation, venture investing and plenty of networking opportunities. Some events will accept walk-up registration but others sell out. Some of this year’s highlights:

Medical Device Security Symposium. A full day of education on the methods for assessing medical device risk and intelligence sharing. Special attention will be given to Executive Order 13691, and the National Medical Device ISAO Initiative co-led by NHSIAC and MDISS.

Venture+Forum. This one-day forum provides a close look at the trends in health tech investment for entrepreneurs, business development professionals and investors. After a full-day of panel discussion, the event concludes with a networking reception.

Cloud Computing Forum. The first event dedicated to managing the infrastructure required for successfully deploying cloud platforms supporting a healthcare enterprise.

Rockstars of Blockchain. Does blockchain have the potential to bridge traditional data silos while keeping data more secure? This day-long conference brings together experts from hospitals, health insurance companies, and vendors for a deep dive into the blockchain opportunities.

HIMSS Awards Gala. This elegant event is an occasion for honoring outstanding achievements to the healthcare IT community; it takes place Tuesday evening. Black-tie and gowns are optional; reserve early because it often sells out.

Wednesday Night at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Universal Orland Resort park has been reserved for what is expected to be one of the biggest HIMSS parties yet. This casual networking event will start Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.. Transportation from many hotels will be provided to and from the event. A sell-out is expected.

You can explore all of your options at the Conference Registration page. 

Planning from your desktop
Most conference activities take place within the Orange County Convention Center. So of course you can find the booths that interest you. Just one problem: there are more than 1,300 exhibits. It would help to know where the companies you’re planning to visit are located. Before you leave, from the comfort of your desktop, take a look at the interactive map at the conference website. You can zoom around the exhibit hall floor in no time, something you won’t be able to do once you’re onsite.

Navigating onsite with the HIMSS17 App
Once you have arrived, you will want to have the HIMSS17 App locked and loaded on your phone. It is an easy download from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Just search for HIMSS17 and download. To set it up, you’ll need the email address and password you used for your conference registration. (If your registration was setup by a corporate event manager, your email address may be shared; check with the person managing your organization’s registration at conference.)

The app is greatly improved this year. You will find listings for all conference education sessions and a calendar feature that will let you manage your conference schedule directly from the app. The app will even help you navigate the conference with step-by-step directions and interactive maps. And rather than walk everywhere, click the Near Me button to see listings for the exhibitors within close range. Be sure to turn on geo-location during setup to use these features.

Networking is an important part of the experience and the app can help you make connections and find your colleagues. You’ll find a list of attendees who have installed the app. Search by name to find them in the app. You can send them direct messages and share your location when you’re inside the conference center.

Ground transportation
Taxis are readily available in the Orlando area. To call a taxi in advance of arrival, Mears is a widely recommended service; their number is (407) 423-5566

Uber is available for pickup at the Orlando airport; Uber recommends meeting at the Express Pickup Tunnel.

Once you’re at your hotel, you can take a shuttle from most Orlando hotels to the convention center starting Sunday at 6:30 a.m. through Thursday at 3 p.m. Special shuttles will also provide transportation to special events like the Tuesday night awards dinner and the Wednesday night Universal party.

When it’s time to return to the airport, you can take a free shuttle directly from the convention center on Wednesday and Thursday, running every 30 minutes, on the hour and half hour.

See the complete shuttle schedule for routes and times.

Expand your social circle
HIMSS is a society so don’t be anti-social. This is a prime opportunity to form new professional relationships. Everyone taking the shuttle bus or waiting for a session to start shares a common interest with you, so seize the opportunity to make a new friend.

Gatherings take place every evening and they start on Sunday with the exhibit hall opening reception.

We’ll publish a complete list of networking opportunities a few days before the conference. Check back here for it. 

HIMSS17 runs from Feb. 19-23, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center.


This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.


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