The HIMSS conference has historically been the largest conference in the industry and will be the first to be held since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus last year. The even will take place August 9-13, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nev.
According to Malone, registration has reflected a significant level of excitement from participants. In the five months since registration has opened, attendee numbers are as high, if not higher, than those in previous years.
Malone and her team have pivoted to navigate the variables in their planning process. Even health concerns and 18 months of absence in industry collaboration, this year's conference is met with more than just safety protocol changes, according to Malone. The team has added new layers to an already complex event like a new date pattern, an altered campus approach, utilizing a new building, and accommodating a digital conference.
Malone explained that HIMSS attendees, exhibitors, speakers, and staff are required to be vaccinated. Without proof, individuals will not be given a badge for access to the HIMSS21 campus, exhibit hall, education session, or networking opportunities. To be considered fully vaccinated, there will need to be a two-week gap after the final dose.
Currently, Malone's team is evaluating validation solutions that are both simple and privacy-preserving for attendees. In the coming weeks, these solutions should be released.
"We will be providing multiple options for people that meet their comfort level on how we can work with them to validate their vaccination," she said.
HIMSS21 will increase space capacity; according to Malone, the team has been working with the City of Las Vegas for several years regarding expansion plans for the adjacent convention center space by their central hub. They plan to utilize three buildings, which has more than doubled the amount of space previously. They will be the first to use this new building.
Therefore, she explained, they will be implementing a campus approach.
"[This] couldn't be more timely when you think about a year where we want to offer attendees as many options as possible," she said.
There will be wider aisles within this added space for social distancing and larger distances between exhibit floor booths. Additionally, there are plans to enhance the content itself, with plans to cover hot topics like 5G, digital therapeutics, telehealth, and disease management.
"We're always looking at what are the hot topics, the buzz things. And we always want to remain highly relevant," she said.
According to Malone, most importantly, newly established health and safety protocols will be their first priority.
HIMSS21 will also include a virtual experience, but it will not replicate the in-person event, Malone said. About 25% of the in-person content will be available to the online participants.
However, there will be unique content for the virtual environment and will include special keynote speakers. The digital program will complement the live setting, which will consist of dedicated time with exhibitors and education sessions. A separate team that is preparing for the digital aspects of the event.
Choosing keynote speakers is a rigorous process, according to Malone, which considers attendee recommendations, identifying innovators, and feedback from industry leaders. Speakers will be announced in the coming weeks and will include cybersecurity and other diverse panels. For Malone, a successful HIMSS conference will mean that her team can deliver what attendees expect. She hopes people walk away with expectations met, looking forward to coming back the following year.
"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," she said.