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HIMSS CEO Lieber Confirms Las Vegas and Orlando As Core Destinations Going Forward

April 16, 2015
by Mark Hagland
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As the HIMSS Conference grows ever larger in size and scope, more and more cities are being eliminated as potential sites for the healthcare IT world’s largest annual gathering

H. Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS), confirmed on Wednesday, April 16 that Chicago, the site of HIMSS15, is being eliminated from future consideration as a HIMSS Conference site, and that only two cities, Las Vegas and Orlando, are now considered able to meet the needs of the annual HIMSS Conference, which this year grew to a record-breaking 43,143 attendees in size, according to a figure announced from the stage just prior to the closing keynote session Wednesday at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.

“It’s just too expensive here,” Lieber told HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland, just before the closing keynote address began. Lieber said that the costs at McCormick Place are simply prohibitive compared to those at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando and the convention center sites available in Las Vegas. HIMSS16 is already scheduled to be held Feb. 29-March 4, 2016, at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Lieber revealed to HCI that HIMSS17 will be held in Orlando, and that the plan going forward is to alternate only Orlando and Las Vegas. Both New Orleans, the site of HIMSS12 and several previous HIMSS Annual Conferences, and San Diego, the site of a number of annual conferences going back a number of years, are now problematic along several dimensions, most particularly regarding the fact that the size of the attendee cohort at HIMSS has outstripped the airline flight capacity of those cities’ available flight schedules.

The HIMSS Conference has grown dramatically over the years. According to a report, “The History of HIMSS,”  “The 1989 Annual Systems conference and Meeting was held at the Anaheim Hilton Towers, Anaheim, Calif. Registration totaled 1,225 people, another 50 percent jump in attendance. The information management exhibition had 128 vendors, filling the space available at the facility.” Since 1989, the conference has gone on to outgrow not only hotel spaces, but entire convention centers, in terms of the size needed to welcome attendees to keynote addresses and to attend educational sessions and meetings, and the square footage needed to support the conference’s ever-growing exhibit hall. Including and since 1993, when HIMSS became independent, ending its previous status as a personal membership society of the American Hospital Association, the association’s conference has been sited in San Diego (1993, 1997, 2003, and 2006), Phoenix (1994), San Antonio (1995), Atlanta (1996, 1999, 2002, and 2010), Orlando (1998, 2004, 2008, 2011, and 2013), Dallas (2000 and 2005), New Orleans (2001, 2007, and 2012), Las Vegas (2012), and Chicago (2009 and 2015).

Given that HIMSS15 has attracted over 43,000 attendees, Lieber told HCI, only Orlando and Las Vegas are now capable of providing all the hosting resources the conference needs—a convention center with a vast exhibit hall, huge ballrooms for keynote sessions, and a very large number of medium- and smaller-sized rooms for all the educational sessions and meetings; a constellation of dozens of nearby hotels with adequate room capacity for tens of thousands of guests, within shuttle bus proximity to the convention center chosen; and flight capacity on the part of major airlines.

In short, as the association’s annual conference has grown in size, only a very few U.S. cities are capable of hosting it. And for the time being, Las Vegas and Orlando are the preferred alternating cities, Lieber confirmed.