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HIMSS Conference kicks off in Chicago: What you need to know


As the big annual healthcare technology event begins today, here’s a rundown of some of the highlights and big themes.

Chicago - Tens of thousands of healthcare leaders from around the world have made their way to the Windy City.

The HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition takes place in Chicago this week. (Photo courtesy of HIMSS)

The HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition takes place in Chicago this week. (Photo courtesy of HIMSS)

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, more commonly called HIMSS, is holding its big annual event in Chicago this week. The HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition kicks off today and runs through Friday at McCormick Place.

The event focuses on healthcare technology and the transformation of healthcare, and it comes at a time when the industry is facing rapid changes.

This year, more than 30,000 visitors are expected, and as many as 40,000 could be attending the conference, says Christine Buck, chief marketing and communications officer of HIMSS. Visitors are representing more than 90 countries, she says. More than 200 CEOs will be speaking at the conference.

The event will see thousands more visitors than last year’s conference in Orlando, which was held just as some COVID-19 restrictions were easing and still drew around 20,000 attendees.

“This year, we're seeing a resurgence,” Buck says.

While the organization is heartened by the big numbers, she says the goal of the event is to present big ideas and create opportunities for individuals to connect.

“We're super excited about it,” she says. “We're also wanting to still make it a really specialized experience for people who just want to have smaller gatherings, smaller moments, and have obviously more intimate conversations about their business or the space that they're in.”

The exhibition will feature health tech companies displaying their latest offerings. But Buck says HIMSS wants to generate discussions on ensuring those technologies offer better care to patients of all backgrounds.

“If you see the content, you see the richness of it, it's not just, come check out the latest gadget that we have, or the latest innovation,” Buck says. HIMSS is hoping to foster deeper discussions and ask, “What will this do for our communities? What will it do for people of color? What will it do for women and children?”

(Christine Buck shares some thoughts about the conference, and making the most of it, in this video. The story continues below.)

Big themes

HIMSS is devoted to using technology to change the world of healthcare, so the event is naturally going to focus heavily on artificial intelligence and the opportunities and challenges surrounding AI. And that certainly includes discussions about ChatGPT.

“Many of us are following the rise of AI, obviously, natural language processing,” Buck says. “It's really, really important for us to stay on the cusp of that. There's so much happening.”

Many discussions will involve AI and the potential of closing disparities in underserved communities.

“There are about 10 to 15 sessions that are going to be happening in connection points just around artificial intelligence, data security,” Buck says. “What does it mean in terms of how you see data equity, or health equity playing out through the use of data for communities, such as our LGBTQ+ community, indigenous people, groups that are not necessarily always served the best within healthcare systems around the world?”

The conference also features a track on cybersecurity, she says. As more health systems are dealing with ransomware attacks, healthcare leaders will see a host of sessions on protecting data and patients.

Buck says she’s excited about the “Venture Connect” sessions, which will bring investors, entrepreneurs, providers and policymakers together.

“We all know that there's a lot of financial stress on every type of business and industry, but nothing more obviously, than in a space that's going through digital transformation, like the healthcare industry,” she adds. “And so what I'm excited about is that this is not necessarily an opportunity to matchmake. It's an opportunity to learn and grow and build better solutions together.”

HIMSS also strives to bring together a diverse mix of healthcare leaders. More than 190 women leaders are going to be presenting at HIMSS, and there are scheduled gatherings aimed at female executives. In addition, a reception celebrating Black healthcare leaders is scheduled,

“Diversity of thought is going to be rich,” Buck says.

Programs for providers

Hospital and health system executives will find plenty of discussions and events focusing on some of their top concerns.

“We've built programming around patient care, around behavioral health, around workforce management,” Buck says. “So if I'm a hospital leader, again, I think about technology, but I'm also really thinking about well, what about my teams? What about the nurses and clinicians and providers that have really been under great duress?”

“We have an entire set of panel discussions built around just managing care for the individual within the hospital systems and for the workers and workforce,” she adds. “That's going to be an amazing set of conversations.”

Panel discussions are planned for all sizes of health systems, including smaller hospitals. “We will have some really, really great topics for smaller health systems,” Buck says.

HIMSS aims to ignite conversations and drive new ideas to transform healthcare. For Buck, that’s one of the important components that elevates HIMSS beyond a showcase of gadgets and gear.

Buck offers this advice for those attending the conference.

“Find the top three things you really want to learn and take away to make an impact for your patients in your business, in your world,” she says. “Make sure you attend the sessions that you're passionate about learning. And then, share that, go back and share your learnings with your colleagues and friends in your community. And I think that's the most important thing you can do by attending the HIMSS conference this year.”

Quick hits

Here are a few other tips on making the most of HIMSS 2023.

Get the app. HIMSS offers a mobile app for attendees, including full schedules of events. With so many events, it’ll definitely come in handy.

Pocket guide. Here’s the HIMSS online pocket guide for navigating the conference, including shuttles to area hotels.

Puppy park. The conference will offer a puppy park, where visitors get to hold a puppy.

Dining. Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza, and yes, you should get some. But the Windy City boasts a world-class dining scene going far beyond pizza. “Go enjoy a great dinner in Chicago,” Buck says.

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