Staking out the vendors at ANI

Come for the networking. Stay for the tchotkes.

That was the takeaway at the HFMA/ANI's rambling vendor floor, where there were enough bill collectors, software vendors, and revenue enhancement consultants to follow the curvature of the Earth.

Most of these vendors offer competing services, and let's face it: Bill collection software does bewitch visitors like a new video game. They must therefore clamor for eyeballs any way they can, and they do so with knick-knacks, raffles, and candy. Enough candy to keep every four-year-old visiting the nearby Disney World resorts awake for the entire summer.

Prior to my lapsing into a sugar-induced coma, I was able to record a few favorite vendors:

* The ANI tchotke prize went to EnableComp, which gave out stuffed pink pigs. It was part of their "when-pigs-fly" campaign regarding getting revenue from worker's compensation payers. I felt genuinely sorry for the vendors in the adjacent booths.

* The game prize went to the Intersect Healthcare/Veracity "Whack-A-RAC." I saw a little kid take to this game with terrific gusto. Her father, a hospital executive in Orlando, cracked up when I said she had the makings of a great CFO.

* The excess prize was a tie between BNY Mellon and VHA. BNY had an entire shelf of penny candies in glass bowls, including caramels, rock candies, and Gummi bears. I politely declined a care package. VHA had a lineup of Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars in refrigerator cases. If it had something like this in its clients' patient rooms, who knows what might happen to average length of stay.

* A company called AMCOL won the creative sweet award: Baklava.

* Relay Health won the coolest booth award with white tables and desks draped in a cascade of gauzy, bead-like curtains. I wasn't sure whether I should take a brochure or order a scotch.

* Outreach Services won the creative gimmick: The revenue "cyclist," a semi-professional bike rider who logged miles on a stationary racer. For every mile he completed, $10 was donated to support the trauma center at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. For a minute, he looked  as if he was going to require the hospital's services, but then someone handed him a turkey sandwich and he pedaled on, hands-free but revived.

* The shock-of-the-show award went to fast-food behemoth Subway, which was the only food-oriented vendor present. Ironically, it was among the very few not handing out food. It turns out that Subway has gotten into hospitals in a big way: Subways are located at more than 200 worldwide hospitals and are using low-fat menu offerings as a lever for entry into healthcare facilities. According to Subway consultant William G. Notte, larger hospitals usually cut a deal with Subway for rent and sometimes will even franchise the location. Smaller facilities don't receive the same terms as larger hospitals, but they also won't have the cost burden of cafeteria FTEs, said Notte. Coincidentally, they have a 24-hour-a-day location at Shands Jacksonville. If the Outreach Services bicyclist is in danger of fainting while pedaling his donation dollars over to the facility, he knows where to turn.

By the way, there were some vendors that popped not because of their set-dressing or giveways but for walking off the beaten path. I will cover one in depth next week. --Ron

*Editor's Note: FierceHealthFinance does not endorse these products or services offered by the organizations mentioned in this article.