HIMSS has rescheduled its annual global conference from March 2021 to August 2021, due to safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition is officially moving to August 9-13 in Las Vegas, making it about 29 months between the usual annual event, HIMSS President and CEO Hal Wolf said during a press call Friday afternoon.
HIMSS20, at which President Donald Trump was to speak, was cancelled on March 5, days before the start of the March 9 global conference, as the pandemic began to infect large numbers of people in the United States.
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"Our entire ecosystem has been turned upside down," Wolf said, calling the time around the cancellation of HIMSS20, "the most challenging and stressful time of my career."
HIMSS immediately developed a HIMSS20 digital platform.
But the parent company of Healthcare Finance News received pushback from attendees and exhibitors who wanted full refunds for the cancelled event.
"The remedies with the exhibitors has been a tough story," Wolf acknowledged. "When the cancellation took place (for) HIMSS20, the contractual environment limited us to how we could respond because of two fundamental things."
One was the tremendous cost the company absorbed in cancelling the conference days before it was to begin. The other was over the insurance process. Those negotiations are ongoing.
"It's very complex and large," he said.
Wolf said the contract stipulates all costs and fees are held by HIMSS but the company turned around and gave exhibitors a 25% credit for HIMSS21 and HIMSS22, by applying 15% to HIMSS21 and 10% to HIMSS22. The company spent a little over $7 million out-of-pocket.
Digital startups were given a 50% credit towards the two future conferences.
"Our intent, once we are resolved on our claim …. it is absolutely our intent to come forward with additional remedies at that time," Wolf said.
Anyone who registered for the cancelled HIMSS20 conference has access to HIMSS20 Digital and is automatically registered for HIMSS21 in Las Vegas.
The odds of moving forward with an in-person conference are dramatically improved with moving HIMSS21 from March to August next year.
"We felt March was too much of a risk," Wolf said.
The company looked to infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been guardedly optimistic about a vaccine by this winter, and other epidemiologists, in making the decision, while still looking at what safety protocols need to be in place.
Wolf did not release expected registration numbers but said, so far, the response has been better than expected.
Details on the registration process are expected later this summer, and hotel registration will open up in the fall.
The 2021 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition will be held from August 9–13, in Las Vegas.
The venues are the Venetian-Sands Expo Center, Caesars Forum and the Wynn, connected by an air-conditioned elevated bridge. The bridge was built due to the necessity to have additional space to accommodate the estimated 40,000 people who attend each year, while still keeping to any necessary social distancing protocols. The bridge will make it cooler and easier to move between the halls when temperatures in Las Vegas can rise above 100 degrees.
HIMSS is honoring contracts to keep exhibitors in their spot in the exhibit hall and is currently going through a design to navigate the flow of foot traffic.
The past few months have seen an increase in telehealth and digital initiatives, innovations supported by HIMSS. What exhibitors want is connectivity, Wolf said.
"We represent an incredible ecosystem across the healthcare environment," he said. "It is about innovation, it is about market leadership, it is about connectivity."
HIMSS22 is scheduled for March 14-18, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.
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