The Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has pushed back the dates for its 2021 annual conference by five months in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting, which is the largest healthcare IT conference in the U.S. and was previously scheduled for March, will take place August 9-13 in Las Vegas.
"We just felt March was too much of a risk," HIMSS president and CEO Hal Wolf, told reporters during a July 31 conference call "Talking to many of the epidemiologists and people around us, we really believe that we have a very good chance for a tremendous celebration…a really joyous reunion in August 2021.”
The motivation behind the schedule change was to avoid a repeat of HIMSS 2020 which was cancelled only days before its start date
and was set to feature among others, President Donald J. Trump as a speaker
. It was the first cancellation in the meeting’s 58 year existence, and the first among many cancelled events in 2020. HIMSS later launched an alternative, HIMSS20 Digital, in which it moved a number of activities scheduled for the 2020 conference to online. Hundreds of presentations reached nearly 30,000 users in 210 countries.
All paid registrations for HIMSS20 will be transferred to HIMSS21, with further details and instructions regarding the registration process to be made available to all registrants later this summer. Registration and hotel reservations will open this fall, while the call for reviewers will open September 14, and the call for proposals on October 5.
HIMSS is also offering a 25% remedy to 2020 exhibitors, redirecting 15% of their fees into HIMSS21 and 10% into HIMSS22. Universities and startups had their complete 2020 fees divided up, with 50% applied to HIMSS21 and 50% to HIMSS22.
"We want to give [startups] the best break we possibly can, to encourage innovation in the digital health ecosystem,” said Wolf, adding that “this is what we can afford at [this] time. Our intent from a remedy standpoint is that once we are fundamentally resolved on our claim — and we know that there are people looking forward for additional support — it is absolutely our intent to be able to come forward with additional remedies at that time."
The 2021 conference is expected to host hundreds of sessions on 17 conference education topics, with keynote speakers, investment and entrepreneur activities, optional pre-conference events, and special education presentations. Among the topics that will be discussed are AI, big data, cybersecurity and telehealth.
The event will include a team to ensure attendees abide by guidelines and protocols recommended by the CDC and World Health Organization. "If we're still in a mask environment, we will do that," said Wolf. "Our hope, of course, is that the vaccines will be brought on board and then there'll be an easing of tension across our entire ecosystem, but we will follow all appropriate guidelines and safety will remain our number one concern."