It is said that Las Vegas is a city like no other. If this is true, then Las Vegas is the perfect location for HIMSS18 – a healthcare conference like no other. Organized by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), HIMSS18 brought together world-class education, cutting edge products and solutions, and unique networking opportunities to solve the biggest health information and technology challenges [1 ]. I had been warned many times in the lead up to the event that the scale of the exhibit floor was incredible and that I’d be blown away by the number of attendees, but none of the warnings prepared me. Truthfully, I could have stayed for an entire extra week and still have been finding new pieces to explore and learn from.
My experience began on Saturday March 3, earlier than most HIMSS attendees. I had the opportunity to work with the Intelligent Health Association, supporting a demonstration on the Internet of Healthcare Things™ (IoHT) in the Intelligent Health Pavilion (IHP) . This demonstration was co-created by Mackenzie Innovation Institute (Mi²) and Hamilton Health Sciences. On the day of my arrival, construction of the show floor was in full swing, with most of the walls for the pavilion already up. Security for the hall was tight, requiring exhibitor badges for entrance and most of the staff inside sporting hard hats and steel toes. Over the weekend, work was continuous and the only change Monday morning brought was a notable uptick in the crowd size entering Sands Expo Convention Center.
The hard work and effort of exhibitors and staff truly transformed what were seemingly empty halls to a show-ready exhibition in the blink of an eye. By Monday evening, the grand opening of the floor was underway. There was a live DJ and activity buzzing across the lower level of the exhibit floor. The spectrum of attendees became quite apparent, as some tables were occupied by suit-and-tie professionals working away on their laptops, while simultaneously a dance circle formed in front of the DJ booth, with dancers enjoying the sounds of throwbacks like Kris Kross.
Taking this array of energies and pushing forward to the 10th hour of my workday, I was grateful to be invited to my first ever business dinner with the Mi² and Mackenzie Health teams. The group ranged from Canadian hospital leadership to industry sales reps, all abuzz from the contagious excitement the conference offered. Over a plentiful dinner menu that did not disappoint, I was able to connect with other guests on both healthcare innovations and career perspectives. Undoubtedly, I left the evening with plenty to digest.
By Tuesday morning, everyone was back in professional form and the crowds entering Sands can only be described as massive. Everyone was full of anxious excitement. Arguably my busiest day of the conference, the morning was spent ensuring actors were comfortable with demonstration logistics in the IHP, while the afternoon was spent coordinating a mini conference on the Internet of Healthcare Things™, also held in the IHP. Somewhere in there I managed to join a Philips booth tour, but lunch got lost along the way. Luckily, during the Canadian Reception at HIMSS, I had the opportunity to catch up with familiar faces and grab a few appetizers to tide me over before round two of my introduction to business dinners later that evening. While it was clear these dinners were not events a student would typically attend, I was grateful for the invitation and the warm welcome from both my colleagues and the company representatives.
Wednesday and Thursday of the conference were a rinse and repeat situation. With my organizational responsibilities easing up, I was able to explore the show floor a bit more. Between scheduled meetings with vendors, lunches to share experiences and ad hoc introductions at interesting booths, by Thursday I felt like I was getting the hang of things. I was on a mission, having been challenged by my supervisor, Dr. Aviv Gladman, to find a game changing product. Exploring exhibits, I was both intrigued and amused by the change in approach when company reps learned about my affiliation with a hospital. Everyone is much more eager to share their vision and to continue a conversation when they realize your role inside a healthcare organization. As a student, this was an amazing position to leverage as it allowed me to gather plenty of insightful information. The collection of business cards and white papers will keep my learning going for weeks to come, I’m sure.
Wrap up for the exhibit floor took place Thursday at 4pm, and if I thought construction went quickly, tear-down happened in a flash. Within half an hour, what used to be a crowded floor of booths and showrooms was disappearing, carpets being rolled up and most exhibits already deserted. By Friday morning when I returned to take some photos, the floor was a ghost town and even the crowd attending sessions had significantly diminished.
It was hard to believe that something I had looked forward to and planned for months in advance was coming to an end – gone just as quickly as it had arrived. I was lucky to be catching the red-eye home Friday night, which left some time to explore the city and collect various souvenirs along the way. Though, without a doubt, the experiences I had throughout this whirlwind week were the most valuable souvenir I left Las Vegas with.
I feel humbled to have been invited and grateful to have been involved in HIMSS18, as well as steadfast in my passion for this field. As was repeated to me by peer hospitals and vendors alike, the leadership and vision at Mi² is outstanding. I am proud to be part of such an exceptional organization.
Liane is a McMaster University Student in her fourth year of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, with Co-op option. She has been part of the Mi² team since May 2017.