Based on the current circumstances, no marketing hype is required to ensure next week’s will be a HIMSS Conference unlike any other. As the first “handshake-free” version of the show, one can imagine the myriad of jokes echoing the hall as non-contact forms of greeting replace the old American standard.
For all those with much invested in the event – namely the hundreds of exhibitors that have spent tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing for the healthcare IT industry’s Christmas – the stress of a possible last-minute cancellation must be unbearable.
For my part, I’ll be there unless there is no show to attend; that is until and unless it is cancelled. Of course, the specific situation must be taken into account – and that can change day-by-day, even hour-by-hour – one wonders how things might change if cases are identified in Orlando. Of course, people will be coming from all over the country, and all over the world, so a clean Orlando doesn’t necessarily mean a clean bill of health for the show. HIMSS has put out a number of emails noting there will be screenings of folks from countries where the outbreak has taken hold, and screenings of individuals showing flu-like symptoms on the show floor.
This brings me to another thought – I sure as heck don’t want to get a cold before heading down to Florida. One wonders how co-passengers will appreciate sneezing or coughing, no matter how garden variety; just as I wonder how I’ll feel about the presence of those showing such symptoms in close quarters with me. One can imagine countless travel nightmares of flights delayed, rerouted or cancelled due to symptom-showing passengers who need to be deplaned.
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that a tightly packed schedule – leaving little time for the vagaries of things like interruptions, such running into someone you absolutely must spend a few minutes chatting with; realizing a booth you need to be at in 3 minutes is a 7 minute walk away; or simply getting lost – is a sure-fire way to miss that meeting you can’t afford to.
I will go to HIMSS because I’ve got flight and hotel reservations, I’ve got meetings set up, and I’m supposed to be there. I will do everything in my power at this point (which does not include flying in earlier) to be in a position to manage disruptions due to the Covid-19 situation.
Of course, what I don’t want to do is bring any microscopic gifts home to my family, so it makes a lot of sense to sketch out some mental contingency in which anyone who attends the show healthy and feels sick on their way home diverts from their final destination to a hospital to get tested.
I listen to the news a lot, and am hearing two distinct and somewhat conflicting lines of thought – the first is that it is inevitable there will be a large outbreak, that this is going to happen and it will have a massive impact on our lives. The second is that the flu kills exponentially more people than Covid-19 and nobody seems to get upset about that; that it’s relatively mild except perhaps for the very old, very young, or those with compromised immune systems. How to reconcile? Perhaps both are true – perhaps we could be headed for a big outbreak where the infected generally recover and we wonder in the aftermath what the big deal was
For my part, I like HIMSS’s briefing emails on the situation, and I hope they continue to be as transparent and helpful as they’ve been so far. When we know, we can make informed decisions about whether to attend and how to act once there. Of course, HIMSS has decreed there will be no handshakes, so that’s one decision completely out of our hands.
So let’s all buck up and be brave. I hope to see you in Orlando.