June 2, 2021: Karen Malone, Vice President of Meeting Services & Sales at HIMSS joins Bill to discuss the planning for HIMSS21 which is being held from 9-13 August in Las Vegas. Attend the can’t miss health information and technology event of the year. Connect with changemakers as we build our future. HIMSS21 programming offers outcomes-focused, best practices education, unrivaled networking and continuing education. What are the safety protocols this year? What will people find when they get to Vegas? What are the hot topics? Who are the keynote speakers? There’s only one way to find out.
Karen Malone, HIMSS Head of Global Conference Planning Discusses Preparations
Episode 410B: Transcript – June 2, 2021
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[00:00:00] Bill Russell: [00:00:00] Welcome to This week in Health IT. Today we have a short special for you. We have Karen Malone, the head of global conference planning for HIMSS 2021 on the show to discuss planning and what to expect for this year’s conference. My name is bill Russell. I’m a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator of This Week in health IT. A channel dedicated to keeping health it staff current. And engaged. We want to thank our channel [00:00:30] sponsors who are investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders. VMware Hill-Rom Starbridge Advisors, McAfee and Aruba networks. Now onto today’s show. Today we are joined by the head of global conference planning for HIMSS. Karen Malone probably one of the most busy persons on the face of the earth right now.
[00:00:50] And she’s going to share with us some of the preparation that’s going on for the hymns 21 conference that is coming up August. I think it’s eighth through the 13th. Welcome to the [00:01:00] show Karen.
[00:01:01] Karen Malone: [00:01:01] Thank you Bill. My pleasure to be here.
[00:01:03] Bill Russell: [00:01:03] Do I have those dates right? August 8th to the 13th.
[00:01:06] Karen Malone: [00:01:06] Yes. The official dates are really August 9th through the 13th, but we have some pre-conference activities folks, several arrivals will start on August 8th. that Sunday. Yes.
[00:01:15]Bill Russell: [00:01:15] We used to come early because you have a lot of really good things that go on on the eighth for people to sign up for. But those are over and above the conference.
[00:01:24]Karen Malone: [00:01:24] Yeah. And you’re right generally that, so, and that would normally be on the Sunday, but over the past [00:01:30] two years, we’ve migrated so that our pre-conference day is really that Monday.
[00:01:33] So that Monday will be August nine. In Las Vegas. We actually opened with our keynote on the evening of Monday, August 9th, because we find more on the west coast in Las Vegas that works really well. That we do that because of the time that folks have more time to travel. So we’ll open the conference with pre-conference on the Monday, the ninth, and then in the evening with the opening keynote and then segue right into our opening reception right after.
[00:02:00] [00:01:59] Bill Russell: [00:01:59] Fantastic. All right. Let’s start high level because I mean, there’s a lot of things we could talk about, but I figured we’d start high level. Just tell us about the preparations that are going on for the conference and what you guys are doing right now.
[00:02:12]Karen Malone: [00:02:12] Great question. We have just a little bit going on as you referenced previously. This conference, it, first of all, when we go back and we think about the conferences historically it’s been in existence for over 60 years, right.
[00:02:27] And we’ve seen tremendous growth over the years. As a matter of fact, I’ve [00:02:30] been with HIMSS for 24 years. I’ve been running this event for about 24 years. So I’ve seen tremendous growth. And I often joke too, that when I first started at HIMSS in 1997 Bill, I interviewed with the entire company, all 20 staff, you can believe that.
[00:02:47] So it’s kind of a little bit of a funny story. So I’ve seen not only the conference, both through tremendous growth, but the organization over my tenure at HIMSS of 24 years. So you know, this [00:03:00] of course is the the largest conference in the industry. And it’s the first conference that will be held post COVID.
[00:03:07]First healthcare conference that will be held post COVID. COVID. So we’re very excited about that. And I know that there will be a lot of eyeballs on this, but there’s so much interest as well and excitement. We opened registration, for example, just over five months ago. Or yeah, well, if the five months out mark in March and that’s our normal cadence, generally, we normally open registration about six months out and we have [00:03:30] seen tremendous interest since we open registration. Frankly, it’s been a little surprising and that our numbers are doing very strong.
[00:03:37] They’re actually holding on par if not higher than prior years. And we do expect that we’re going to see some slippage just naturally b e cause of COVID and travel bans and things like that. But it’s also the quality of our registrations. The demographics are very, very strong. For example, we’re seeing really strong participation engagement from C-suite much higher than prior years [00:04:00] clinicians as well in our entrepreneur number numbers and innovators, disruptors are all really high.
[00:04:06] And I think that really gets to the fact that it’s our conference. They really haven’t had an opportunity to meet folks in this industry face-to-face in 18 months. If you think about when we canceled in March of 2020, so people are anxious to get back out again. And I think we’re really starting to see that with our registration numbers.
[00:04:24] And we’re seeing a correlation between our registration numbers in our hotel reservations as well. So that’s [00:04:30] nice to see that there’s an actual correlation and pick up there. We have recognized, of course this year is we’re doing preparations. The many ways that COVID-19 pandemic has immensely transformed the health ecosystem and the impact that thats had on everyone throughout the world, of course.
[00:04:46] And of course in our planning in the global health conference and exhibition, just like everyone else, we have to pivot and we have to look at our new normal that I think will be with us forever now. So we’ve been doing a lot of planning [00:05:00] around that as we’re planning to reconnect healthcare professionals, run education solutions, exhibition and see
[00:05:06]Bill Russell: [00:05:06] As you’re planning this, I would imagine normal is not a word that we use that often. I would imagine you were looking at it going all right. So we know what we did prior to COVID prior to the pandemic. And we know what we were planning to do last year, but you know, this is a new year. It has been 18 months since people have been together.
[00:05:24] And you know what I’m hearing from people they’re really chomping at the bit to get back [00:05:30] face to face with their peers, have conversations, get back to thos e discussions that help to really pollinate the ideas and the thinking across the industry. But as you’re planning for this, you really don’t know what to expect.
[00:05:44] Do you, I mean, there’s just so many variables at play.
[00:05:47] Karen Malone: [00:05:47] There are many variables and you’re right. I think folks are ready to get back and see each other. And they want to share their stories. Not only did they want to see their friends and their peers, but they’ve got many [00:06:00] stories, I think that they want to share and get affirmation on or thoughts and just very fascinating conference.
[00:06:06] I think we’re going to see throughout theconversations. And, and you’re right. This conference, it’s so different. We have added many layers to it what’s already a complex event, a very complex event. So we’ve got a new date pattern. For example, we’ve got a new campus approach that we’re rolling out this year with a brand new building that we’re going to be one of the very first groups using in Las Vegas.
[00:06:27] And then we layer onto that health and [00:06:30] safety protocols that we’re willing out in a new digital offering. So we have a lot of new things that you’ll see that. Yes, of course adding in all these layers and complexities that will be making a big difference really this year for us.
[00:06:45]Bill Russell: [00:06:45] That is one of the questions that’s top of mind for a lot of people.
[00:06:48] What are the safety protocols? What will they find when they get to Vegas?
[00:06:51]Karen Malone: [00:06:51] Yeah. Well, we’ve gone ahead and we’ve rolled out a and it’s on our website, our health and safety hub. So we have [00:07:00] adopted a vaccination required approach for all attendees, exhibitors speakers and HIMSS staffing conference, basically anyone that has a badge, you’ll see there, they are required to be vaccinated.
[00:07:10]And this in, in practice, what this is going to mean that all HIMSS attendees, exhibitors, speaker staff, anyone, again with the badge will have to provide proof of their COVID-19 full vaccination in order to gain access to the HIMSS 21 campus and get a badge to be able to have access to the exhibit hall education sessions, networking [00:07:30] for the purposes of right of entry.
[00:07:31] Then it was 21. A person is really considered fully vaccinated, two weeks after their second dose and a two dose series of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. And then two weeks after a single dose such as Johnson and Johnson. The guidance also applies to the COVID-19 vaccines operates by the, when a drug administration for emergency use as well as then those operated by world health organization.
[00:07:56] And if an attendee, exhibitor speaker and staff [00:08:00] member does not meet these requirements, they’re not considered fully vaccinated and they will not be given a badge and they will not feel out access to areas at conference. Like the exhibition education sessions and networking. To demonstrate proof of full vaccination we’re currently working on all those processes and procedures right now which you will need that for right of entry as I mentioned and we’re evaluating right now, validation solutions with the focus on keeping things simple for the attendee. And meeting their comfort [00:08:30] level, making accessible, but also privacy preserving technology. We’re really top of mind on that.
[00:08:36]The importance of maintaining what people think is is really important to them, their Phi data, for example. We will provide attendees, exhibitors speakers, any exhibitor staff for their guidance. You’ll see something come out in the next few weeks on accepted proof and validation solution.
[00:08:52] But in effect, we will be providing options, multiple options for people that meet their comfort level on how we can work with [00:09:00] them to validate their vaccination.
[00:09:02]Bill Russell: [00:09:02] Yeah. I, the, I’m not going to put you on the spot, but I got that little card from the health department. Cause I went to one of those mass vaccination events. It wasn’t done by the health system. It was done by the health department. And so I got that little card and it’s almost, it feels like my birth certificate. Like don’t lose this. This is the only validation that you have gotten the backseat. As a health IT professional, I wish we had gotten a little farther than this by 2021. That we would have some sort of digital solution. And I’m sure you [00:09:30] guys will, will tap into a digital solution as well.
[00:09:32] Karen Malone: [00:09:32] Yes. Yes, we will. You’ll see more information coming out on the end in the next two to three weeks.
[00:09:38] Bill Russell: [00:09:38] So how is this conference going to be different? I assume you’re going to do virtual and physical onsite. So how does this conference look and tell us a little bit about the virtual experience as well.
[00:09:48]Karen Malone: [00:09:48] Well, honestly, I guess I would answer the question a little bit different. I would say what won’t be different this year truly. We’re going to have more space. In a typical year, we’re very tight on space. It’s been the conference you’ve seen [00:10:00] how it can be pretty, a lot of people in and we keep growing and growing and growing and we’ve been running out of spaces. So we’ve been working very hard with the various cities that we go to, to contract more space. So we’ve been working with the city of Las Vegas for several years and expansion plans for adjacent convention center space to the Venetian sands, the main hub of our conference in Las Vegas.
[00:10:25] We’re going to be utilizing three buildings in Las Vegas. So the [00:10:30] Wynn right next to the sands, Venetian space has more than doubled their convention space. And there’s a brand new building. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with it called Caesar’s form. It’s directly adjacent to the sands convention center.
[00:10:41] And it really actually, it’s a brand new building. We’re one of the first shows to use it. And it sits right behind here. As it was a big, empty parking lot there that no one realized it was there. We’re going to be building a connector bridge to get you from that conference center over to the CND exhibit hall and into that building.
[00:10:58] So we’re going to what [00:11:00] we’re calling a campus approach, which will provide extra space, which couldn’t be more timely when you think about a year where we want to offer attendees as many options as possible. To feel like when they participate, whether it be an education network or visiting the exhibit floor, that they will see more space for social distancing. We’re going to have much, much wider aisles on our exhibit floor for example. The exhibit floor booths you will see will not be as close to each other. They will be [00:11:30] distanced more. We will have options in education for room in education rooms for folks to sit in more of a distance area. If that’s what they’re most comfortable with. So having more space and moving to this campus approach, I think is really, couldn’t be more timely than it is for us this year.
[00:11:47] We’re also looking at enhancements to our content conference. We’re always looking at what are the hot topics, the buzz things. And we want to, of course always remain highly relevant. So we have an enhanced coverage around [00:12:00] hot topics, such as 5G, digital therapeutics, really important supply chain really important this year.
[00:12:06]And then digital health transformation, acrossmany topics like telehealth, for example or disease management across populations. And then of course, as we started to mention and speak about our health and safety protocols is we’re rolling those out. We are of the mindset that are that we want to take a safety first approach for everyone at conference. That’s our first priority.
[00:12:27]Bill Russell: [00:12:27] Will the booths be different? I mean, as I’m walking through there, [00:12:30] are there certain guidelines that the exhibitors are going to have to adhere to.
[00:12:35] Karen Malone: [00:12:35] We have provided all of the exhibitors with health and safety protocols. Things they need to be doing around cleaning and in some cases, will plexiglass be required. Some will have plexiglass just the design of their booth, having PPE available.
[00:12:50]So you will find that yes, the boots will definitely have a little bit of a different field this year to be a little bit more sensitive and compliant with [00:13:00] health and safety and cleanliness and all of the boots and a little bit more distancing within the booths as well.
[00:13:05]Bill Russell: [00:13:05] Is there a virtual experience for HIMSS 21?
[00:13:09] Karen Malone: [00:13:09] There will. So then if you, so you know, thinking about the layering, so the complexities, right, we’ve got that worker take, we’re going to a campus approach, more space, brand new building. We’re going to be using for the first time. This year, as well as then we’ve got the health and safety protocols. So then you layer on top of that, the digital content that we’ll be rolling out this year.
[00:13:29] We have a [00:13:30] separate team really that they specialize their expertise in part they do physical events as well, but their expertise is around planning digital event. So they’re are digital squad, if you will. They’re fantastic professionals and there’ll be rolling up on a digital experience since 21 digital where the programming really will be a unique extension of who’s 21.
[00:13:51] It will not be a replication. It will have some content that you’ll see live will be part of the digital environment, [00:14:00] maybe 25% or so. But they will be having some of their own unique content as well. That really serves. Really well in a virtual environment. They will have fantastic keynotes. Some of our keynotes that we will have in the light program will be broadcast as part of the digital program.
[00:14:16] And then they’ll have some Reiki notes that will be not part of the live program, but part of the digital program that will compliment those in the life environment. They’ll have several education sessions and dedicated time within their digital program to [00:14:30] engage with exhibitors.
[00:14:31]Bill Russell: [00:14:31] So I’m going off the script here a little bit. I just, how do you choose keynote speakers? I mean, what’s the, what’s the criteria? is it relevance? Is it topic based? Is it personality based? How do you determine the best keynote speaker?
[00:14:46] Karen Malone: [00:14:46] Yeah, that’s a great question. And right now we have invitations out for all of our keynote speakers and we’re in the process of For the confirming them.
[00:14:57] And we hope to be able to release [00:15:00] those in the next week or two, but it’s a pretty rigorous process really. Each year what we start really with our attendees from the year prior, we asked them, who would you like to see as a keynote speaker or a future speaker? So we really do. We mind that list.
[00:15:14] We look at it and and see if there are any surprises or great ideas there. And then we talk to some of our volunteers and other members and innovators out in the industry and who are they seeing, that are real changemakers making the difference really. Innovators in the industry.
[00:15:29] So, [00:15:30] and we do a call then kind of to some some of our leaders within the organization and outside the industry and say who would you recommend? We look for, as you mentioned you hit a lot of the key spots. Relevance is really important. Timeliness. Is it something that’s really hot and timely.
[00:15:47] For example, we’ll be looking to have a really great cyber security panel. It conferences you’re, it’s very tangly continues to unfortunately be very timely. So we look at timeliness and then we look at stature. And what does this [00:16:00] speaker really bring to the table? is it someone that people really will look up to as a leader and want to hear from.
[00:16:07]And then we also want to look at a diverse panel from whether it be from work sites and different parts of the industry or demographics. And we always want to make sure that we we have a platform that meets all of those needs and requirements.
[00:16:20]Bill Russell: [00:16:20] I’ll tell ya, regardless of the controversial nature of it having a president come to HIMSS last year would have been amazing.
[00:16:28] And I think would be [00:16:30] phenomenal moving forward. I mean president Biden has done so much with the Biden cancer initiative and is so influential, obviously everything that goes on in health care, I would really love and we’ve had former presidents. I’d love to see the sitting president come and really talk about healthcare.
[00:16:45] I think it would just be a phenomenal starting point for a great conversation. I think.
[00:16:50]Karen Malone: [00:16:50] Great point and we don’t disagree. It’s something that we work closely with our government relations team. They have great contacts and it’s something that we agree [00:17:00] completely that we would love. and we often do invite whether it be the sitting president or vice president or prior presidents to speak a conference because you’re right. We really do believe that they have. A lot to offer.
[00:17:15] Bill Russell: [00:17:15] So closing question, what does a successful HIMSS 2021 conference look like from your perspective? From a HIMSS perspective.
[00:17:24]Karen Malone: [00:17:24] I think a couple of things really. We’re planning, we are really planning the path to success and safety [00:17:30] for all at, everyone in Las Vegas. First and foremost safety first. Right. But our goal would be, I think, to deliver on what our attendees have come to expect from HIMSS.
[00:17:39] From this event. The HIMSS standard of excellence of really delivering an event that’s truly outstanding as high energy and well delivering on all of that again, keeping folks feeling as safe as possible. And at the end of the day, really, I think what we want attendees to walk away with is to walk away and say, [00:18:00] wow, that was a great conference. And I can’t wait until next year.
[00:18:03] Bill Russell: [00:18:03] Fantastic. Karen, I know how busy you are. I just want to thank you for taking some time out and sharing with us this information. It is one of the highlights of the year for all of us and definitely this year. Getting back together and seeing what you guys have in store, it’s going to be it can be really exciting looking forward to it.
[00:18:20] Thank you again.
[00:18:21]Karen Malone: [00:18:21] Thank you. My pleasure Bill. Thank you.
[00:18:23] Bill Russell: [00:18:23] I really appreciate Karen coming on the show. If you’re going to be at HIMSS 21, shoot me a note. I have some sponsor [00:18:30] commitments throughout the week but I will likely be doing some interviews and always enjoy the conversations. That’s all for today.
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