HIMSS will celebrate its 50th year in style at the HIMSS11 Conference and Exhibition, to be held in Orlando later this month (Feb. 20-24 at the Orange County Convention Center).

Founded in 1961, HIMSS is a not-for-profit organization on a mission to lead healthcare transformation through the effective use of health information technology (IT). Over the past half-century, the annual HIMSS conference has evolved to become the largest tradeshow in the healthcare IT industry.

Most of my career prior to 2009 was spent in the newspaper business; in fact, prior to attending last year's HIMSS10 show in Atlanta, I was a HIMSS virgin. And let me tell you, jumping into HIMSS as your first healthcare IT tradeshow is like being thrown into the deep end of the pool without a swimming noodle!

I was completely blown away by the sheer magnitude of the show. It's big … really big, and I must confess to experiencing a bit of a sensory overload; there are bright colors, noises, booths and people — most moving quickly and purposefully — in every direction. Vendor displays range from the simple: a small booth with a couple monitor screens; to the sublime: a two-story behemoth — complete with a dozen state-of-the-art big-screen flat panels and private meeting rooms — hauled in and built within the exhibition hall.

Having attended several tradeshows since — both big and small — there is really no comparison. Don't get me wrong, there are many solid tradeshows in the healthcare IT space. But when it comes to the number of vendors, the sheer volume of attendees and the level of excitement of everyone involved, HIMSS is truly matchless.

According to Shauna Schuda, senior account executive at Public Communications Inc., HIMSS11 will have approximately 900 vendors covering more than 380,000 square feet of exhibit space. The number of registrants from hospitals and health networks has increased by 28 percent, and at seven weeks out from the conference opening, total professional registration was outpacing last year's registration by 30 percent. “Of these registrants, we have seen a jump in the C-suite space of 12 percent, with especially huge gains in CMIOs and CNIOs,” Schuda says. “HIMSS attendance is currently up 25 percent overall against 2010.”

One way HIMSS is celebrating its 50th anniversary is by honoring 50 individuals with the 50 in 50 Award for memorable achievements in the field of healthcare IT. Ten individuals are recognized for each of the five decades since the founding of the organization. Nominations opened in November 2010; recipients will be recognized at HIMSS11.

Another way HIMSS is acknowledging the big 5-0 is by adding two new items to the show: the Social Media Center and the RFID and RTLS Showcase.

Finally, HIMSS11 features more than 400 education sessions, the always-popular HIMSS Interoperability Showcase and keynote speakers including Michael J. Fox and DHS national health IT coordinator David Blumenthal.

See you in Orlando!



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