Going to HIMSS21 in Vegas? Here's what you need to know

Pictured, the HIMSS19 conference, in which 43,000 people registered to attend. According to HIMSS, more than 18,000 people have registered for the HIMSS21 digital and in-person experience. (Fierce Healthcare)

HIMSS21 will kick off one week from today in Las Vegas as the first and largest on-site healthcare conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.

The conference host, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), announced in May it adopted a “vaccination required” approach for all attendees, exhibitors and HIMSS staff for HIMSS21, slated to take place August 9-13 in Las Vegas. 

HIMSS also is offering a digital event along with the in-person conference for those who don't want to travel to Las Vegas.

Worsening COVID conditions have likely impacted registration for the event. According to HIMSS, more than 18,000 people have registered for the digital and in-person experience, with new registrations continuing to roll in. By comparison, HIMSS19 had 43,000 registrants.

There are 735 companies signed up as exhibitors, about half the usual number.

While lower attendance will make for less crowded hallways at the conference, the HIMSS conference also will be a testing ground for the return of live in-person events, and at a time when the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to rage across the country.

As the conference approaches, the state of Nevada is seeing a surge in cases.

Only 44% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated. Overall, the Silver State is recording an average of 32.7 new daily cases per 100,000 people—a 22% jump since last week, Forbes reported July 30.

The highest number of COVID-19 cases is in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. The Clark County Commission voted last week in an emergency meeting to require face coverings for all employees working indoors, according to Forbes.

RELATED: HIMSS, HLTH conferences will require attendees, exhibitors to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19

HIMSS canceled its 2020 global health conference in March just days before it was slated to start due to concerns about COVID-19.

Here is the latest information you need to know about health protocols at the in-person HIMSS21 event and highlights of the conference schedule:

Masks will be required: HIMSS will require masks for all attendees, exhibitors and HIMSS staff on the HIMSS21 campus and in all public spaces. That mandate follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated guidance recommending that vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in counties with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission rates.

The governor of Nevada has also issued an emergency directive requiring face coverings indoors, consistent with the guidance, as of July 30. Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, is specifically identified as an area with substantial or high transmission.   

The HIMSS21 "campus" includes events at the newly expanded Wynn meeting space, the Venetian-Sands Expo Center and the newly built Caesars Forum Conference Center.

Proof of vaccination: HIMSS will offer HIMSS21 attendees three options for proving that they have received COVID-19 vaccine, which is required for picking up their conference badge and entering the conference venue.

One option is to install the Clear Health Pass app and either link to their vaccine provider’s records or upload a copy of a CDC-issued vaccination card. A second option is to book an appointment with a vaccine concierge service to verify vaccination status and then receive an emailed verification card for printing or displaying on a mobile device. A third option is to bring paper or digital vaccination records to the conference and have them reviewed on-site at a vaccine verification center.

Attendees also have to bring proof of vaccination validation, along with ID, to a registration area for badge pickup.

HIMSS produced a video providing an overview of the options for satisfying the right of entry requirement.

RELATED: HIMSS to pay $2.8M to settle class-action lawsuit brought by HIMSS20 exhibitors over show fees

Other health and safety protocols: All primary venues within the HIMSS21 campus utilize hospital-grade (or better) air ventilation systems, as well as GS Neutral Disinfectant Cleaners on all high-touch areas.

Socially distanced seating options will be provided in all venues, including at all education sessions and networking events. The exhibit hall will include wider aisles on the floor with booths spaced apart.

Attendees, exhibitors, and staff must complete an on-site attestation confirming compliance with all health and safety protocols. On-site COVID-19 testing will be available.

"HIMSS is monitoring the evolving public health guidance regarding large gathering settings and will continue to provide updates and additional guidance. HIMSS continues to ask all attendees, exhibitors, and HIMSS staff to follow all applicable regulations and make informed choices about travel, onsite, and external engagement," the organization said on its website.

Exhibit hall hours: The exhibitor floor will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, August 10 and Wednesday, August 11 and from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 12.

Specialty programs: Accelerate Health, the innovation hub of HIMSS, is a two-day healthcare innovation forum that examines unconventional ideas, technologies and investments making waves in traditional care delivery systems, according to HIMSS. The forum takes place Wednesday and Thursday during the conference.

Keynotes to watch: As the opening keynote, scheduled for 5 p.m. PDT on Monday, August 9, Hal Wolf, president and CEO of HIMSS, will moderate a panel of leading health experts discussing the population health challenges resulting from the pandemic.

Cybersecurity will be front and center for the morning keynote on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. A panel of experts, including Admiral Mike Rodgers, former National Security Agency director under President Obama, will discuss the cybersecurity challenges healthcare organizations are facing today.

Highlighting innovation, the keynote on Wednesday, August 11 at 8:30 a.m. will feature 15-year-old innovator Gitanjali Rao, who has developed innovative tech solutions for some of the world's most pressing issues, including access to clean water and early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction. Rao invented the Kindly app, which uses AI to detect and prevent cyberbullying and protect students.

On Thursday at 8:30 a.m., actor Rainn Wilson will talk about the digital entertainment company he co-founded, called SoulPancake, which aims to uplift and entertain and now has 4 million cross-platform fans.

On Friday morning, former governors Chris Christie, R-New Jersey, and Terry McAuliffe, D-Virginia, will share the stage for a fireside chat with a discussion around the pandemic, health policy development, infrastructure revitalization and other pressing issues facing America in 2021.

Baseball player and entrepreneur Alex Rodriguez will close out HIMSS21 to talk about his successes on and off the baseball field at 1:15 p.m.