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HIMSS: A Star Trek Convention Without The Costumes?

My husband Steve and I are at the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference in Chicago. There are about 30,000 attendees this year and the event is being promoted on billboards around the city and in hotels within a 3 mile radius of McCormick Place. Since President Obama has set aside 20 billion dollars for electronic medical records creation and adoption, members of HIMSS have responded with jubilation (and perhaps even some salivation).

The HIMSS conference might strike outsiders as a kind of Star Trek convention without the costumes. The 881 exhibitors in attendance range from health technology giants like GE, Philips, and IBM to small EMR start ups and software engineering companies to facilitate patient care. There is even a “village” on the convention center floor devoted to demonstrating inter-operability of data systems. Standards organizations like NIST, non-profits like CAQH, and government agencies like the CDC are aggregated together at booths on a huge blue carpet – all working together to share information in formats that their computers can all recognize.

As I looked out on this sea of exhibits, the size and scope of the healthcare industry really struck me. I had been to medical conventions at McCormick place before (the AAFP meeting was there last year, for example), but this time it was filled, floor-to-ceiling, with companies that were not (with few exceptions) hospitals, provider groups, pharmaceutical companies or insurers. Instead, this was an entire additional array of companies, all making a living on healthcare.

The exhibit hall opens today at 2pm, and I’ll be at the conference through April 8th, blogging and Twittering (follow me on Twitter here) my thoughts and discoveries. I’ve got my dark suit, comfortable shoes, and pocket protector in place.

May we all live long and prosper.

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