The HIMSS21 conference is still on track to take place Aug. 9-13 in Las Vegas and is "on pace" with exhibitor sign-ups and hotel reservations, organizers said Tuesday.
In an exhibitor communication that was shared with the media, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) said it was planning a "completely reimagined hybrid event" that bridges the in-person event with an online component.
"In anticipation of the opportunities (and the challenges) ahead, HIMSS is preparing several paths for delivering world-class education, cutting-edge products and solutions, and unique networking opportunities," the industry organization said.
Considered one of the largest health IT events in the industry, the five-day HIMSS conference typically takes place in March. HIMSS announced in July 2020 it was pushing back the HIMSS21 event to August in consideration of the health and safety of attendees, exhibitors, employees and local residents in Las Vegas amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"At this point in time, with several vaccines approved, and in distribution, we are planning for an in-person event in Las Vegas in August 2021," HIMSS officials said in the recent exhibitor communication.
HIMSS said it will set a date to make a "go/no go" decision for the in-person conference closer to the event based on the organization's understanding of "global vaccine distribution rates, infection rates and the status of government regulations."
The organization said the timing of registrations and exhibitor sign-ups are comparable to previous years.
"We've already seen tremendous support and interest in what stands to be the most important industry reunion of 2021," officials said.
To date, more than 11,000 HIMSS20 registrants can transfer their registration to HIMSS21, and the organization has received over 700 proposals to speak at sessions and over 300 applications for reviewers, which is on pace with previous years.
Close to 10,000 peak hotel rooms have been reserved in Las Vegas for the August dates. More than 400 exhibitors have committed to HIMSS21, about two-thirds the typical number compared to the same time frame from previous conferences.
HIMSS said it would provide its next conference update Feb. 19, when the registration opening date also will be announced.
The organization canceled last year's global health conference in March 2020 just days before it was slated to start due to concerns about COVID-19.
At the time, HIMSS originally announced no refunds, which drew a lot of ire from exhibitors and registrants. Attendees and exhibitors complained about a lack of communication from HIMSS organizers and a lack of available refund options.
HIMSS then adjusted its policy and announced April 8 that it would provide partial credits for the HIMSS21 and HIMSS22 events.
Whether a massive in-person event six months from now will draw a large crowd of healthcare professionals is up in the air given the slow vaccine rollout and high COVID-19 case numbers. Frustration over how HIMSS handled the 2020 event also could lead some previous attendees and vendors to bow out of this year's event.
No keynote speakers have been announced yet, and the call for proposals for event presentations at HIMSS21 runs until Feb. 24.
According to a recent poll on health IT news website HIStalk based on 143 responses, 34% of people who registered for HIMSS20 as attendees said they won't go to HIMSS21. About a quarter of companies that signed up as exhibitors for the 2020 conference said they still planned to exhibit at HIMSS21, but another quarter said they won't exhibit at this year's conference.