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News 3/5/20

March 4, 2020 News 9 Comments

I don’t ordinarily post news on Wednesdays dated tomorrow, but HIMSS20 interest is high and I sense that readers are looking to stay connected. I’ll cover just a few miscellaneous items today and do a full news post on Thursday as usual.

Reader Comments

From Need to Stay Anonymous: “Re: HIMSS20. HIMSS asked our national, well-known company not to publicize or reveal that we aren’t going to HIMSS20, but rather to say that ‘we are participating at a reduced level’ if asked and without making any public statements. The concern is the optics – HIMSS can’t cancel because this is their main (almost only) revenue stream and having ONC and President Trump means the HHS people are forced to attend. The organizations I know will set up their booths, let them be empty, and attend only the panels where they are presenting and then leave.” Unverified.

From HISJunkie: “Re: HIMSS20. Could this be the beginning of the end for HIMSS? When all those companies that canceled look back in 10 months and see that not attending had little or no impact on real sales, why sign up for 2021?” Emails I’ve had with a few companies indicate that they aren’t pulling out only because they are afraid their competitors won’t and thus will gain competitive advantage. I don’t know if that competitive pressure to have a bigger booth, louder parties, and in-booth celebrities will carry over to HIMSS21 following a muted HIMSS20. Either way, I feel sorry for the HIMSS folks on the ground in Orlando who are dealing with day-to-day coronavirus updates, complaints from people who want the conference postponed or cancelled, setting up in-venue screening stations and clinics, and working through the security implications of having a sitting President kick off the conference. A HIMSS conference always requires a ton of work starting months or years in advance, but imagine this year with the added uncertainty of whether it will go on (which seems set in stone at this point) and the financial impact if it doesn’t.

From Not the Black Plague Yet!: “Re: HIMSS20. Rumors abound that payers are cancelling. If Big Tech and Big Insurance aren’t going and pressure is on Big Delivery to not go, then I think HIMSS is being disingenuous to small and mid-market vendors if their customers and prospects won’t be there. Cancelling or postponing is the right thing to do.” I don’t think HIMSS will cancel at this point barring some state or federal mandate, but they will still be left dealing with high-paying exhibitors who may not be happy with their ROI if attendance is off, exuberance is tempered by on-site health precautions, or attentions are distracted with new interoperability regs and worries about hospital employers and family back home. But I don’t think that preventing exhibitor disappointment should be the go-no go driver.

From Ponzu: “Re: HIMSS20. This is a needed call to take it virtual – it would be less cost and less time away from work for attendees, lowered carbon emissions, and of course infection related concerns would disappear.” The challenge is the bottom line of HIMSS since virtual conferences are hard to monetize. HIMSS tried virtual conferences a few years ago in a weird Second Life sort of way and they flopped. A conference without a cash register-ringing exhibit hall and in-person networking is really just a bunch of webinars that draws much less interest and money. People say they attend HIMSS for education, but even the in-person version would die out if it weren’t for parties, the exhibit hall boat show, and the chance to run around with colleagues and job-hunt at employer expense. The idea of a virtual conference is commendable, but not realistic under the HIMSS business model. And let’s not minimize that threat to HIMSS – if you like what HIMSS does in general, realize that its ability to continue doing so is highly dependent on offering a financially successful annual conference.

From USS MDRX: “Re: Allscripts. Stock hit a 10-year low today. How does the board allow this management team to remain in place when Cerner recently hit an all-time high?” MDRX shares closed down 8% Tuesday after the company reported losing $182 million on the year, flipped from black to red for the quarter, and announced significant inpatient attrition. They’re down 32% in the past year vs. the Nasdaq’s 15% gain and Cerner’s 28% increase. Ten-year performance finds that both the Nasdaq index and CERN shares gained around 250%, while MDRX was down 64%. The market cap of Allscripts is $1.2 billion.

From Chaminade: “Re: HIMSS20. Are you still going?” I’m still going. I see little health risk, although if HIStalk suddenly goes dark because I’ve become a COVID-19 fatality, then I hereby grant permission to make fun of my poor choice. My biggest worry is that everyone will be preoccupied and morose to the point that the conference won’t deliver even the modest benefits we usually see, although I will have plenty to observe and write about for those who are left home. I’m on text at 615.433.5294. I might need to find a Freddy Krueger glove or tie one hand behind my back to override my handshaking reflex.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


I enhanced the menu system at the top of the HIStalk page with a more user-friendly floating version. This will allow me to reduce some of the sidebar items.


My unscientific, unvetted snap poll that was targeted at HIMSS20 registrants finds that 30% plan to attend the President’s opening keynote on Monday. An interesting 7% say they had already cancelled their attendance plan even before his speaking slot was announced, while 12% say they won’t attend the conference because he is speaking. I’m in the 10% category of not arriving in time to be there, especially given the resulting likely delays in local travel and convention center security.


Snap survey for health system employees: what is your employer doing in response to coronavirus concerns? IT-specific actions are especially welcome.

Lorre will be untethered from a HIMSS20 booth for the first time in years, so she is willing to drop by the booths of prospective HIStalk sponsors for a quick chat. Contact her to make arrangements. She is thrilled to be able to eat lunch and take bathroom breaks that aren’t dependent on finding visitors who are willing to cover our booth.


March 26 (Thursday) 12:30 ET. “How to Use Automation to Reduce ‘My EHR is Slow’ Complaints.” Sponsor: Goliath Technologies. A common challenge is that a clinician is ready to work, but their technology is not. EHRs can be slow, logins not working, or printers and scanners are offline. Troubleshooting these end user tickets quickly is nearly impossible, especially in complex environments that might include Citrix or VMware Horizon. This webinar will present real-world examples of how leading health systems are using purpose-built technology with embedded automation and intelligence to proactively anticipate, troubleshoot, and prevent end user performance issue across their IT infrastructure and EHRs.

Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre to present your own.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


SymphonyAI Group acquires advanced visualization and AI-driven technology vendor TeraRecon. SymphonyAI’s several companies include precision oncology vendor Concerto Health AI.


I received these unverified reader reports about HIMSS20 attendance:

  • VMware supposedly won’t attend.
  • Microsoft is reportedly debating internally whether to attend.
  • Providence and Multicare reportedly will keep registrants home.
  • An anonymous reader says their healthcare organization has suspended all business travel for four weeks.
  • Medicomp will not exhibit (that comes from Medicomp directly).
  • HP is reportedly not exhibiting.
  • MITRE is said to have cancelled attendance plans. (update: now verified via Twitter).
  • Cleveland Clinic reportedly won’t participate.
  • A reader says EClinicalWorks is notifying people who are scheduled for meetings that it won’t attend.


Interesting: the American Physical Society physics group cancelled its 10,000-attendee annual conference the day before it was set to begin in Denver this past Monday. I can’t imagine traveling there and then scrambling to find early flights back home. It’s different than HIMSS, though, in that many of its attendees are coming from outside the US, including CDC Level 3 warning countries.

HIMSS20 gets a mention in a New York Times article titled “What Happens in Vegas if No One Stays in Vegas?” Conferences drive one-third of the revenue of hotel chains that now have uncertain futures. A tech conference scheduled for next week in San Jose, CA will bar residents and recent visitors of China, South Korea, Italy, and Japan and requires attendees to bring passports that will be checked for recent travel. They will check attendee temperatures via “passive scanning,” have banned handshakes, and mandate that each attendee wash their hands before each session, apologizing in advance for the lines that will result. Analysts say Las Vegas is particularly at risk for conference-related business downturn.

I’m wondering about the “passive temperature screening” that this conference will use and wondering if HIMSS will roll it out. It has a lot of false positives and negatives from what I’ve read, but high readings just mean someone will be pulled aside for a manual temperature check. The real fun begins if your temperature is elevated there as well, when I assume you would be escorted off to an onsite clinic and maybe quarantined.


The leader of the World Health Organization team that spent two weeks in China studying that country’s COVID-19 response makes interesting points:

  • He says containment is still possible for countries that act quickly, but that requires speed, money, imagination, and political courage. He says COVID-19 isn’t a global pandemic, but rather a series of outbreaks that are occurring globally.
  • So far, it doesn’t appear that we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg, although that could change with more widespread testing. Reported cases in China are trending down fast and hospitals have empty beds.
  • The fatality rate seems to be 1-2% (recent reports suggest a higher rate).
  • Kids get flu, but don’t seem to get COVID-19 or serve as carriers. An untested theory is that children gain immunity from being exposed to four milder coronaviruses. Still, he says you have to close schools if disease clusters pop up, and that’s a big problem because half the local work force has to stay home with them.
  • Most of the infection clusters occur in families, not hospitals, restaurants, prisons, or other public sources.
  • China almost immediately moved 50% of its medical care services online to allow people to stay home.
  • Fever clinics geared up for rapid screening, with CT lung scans being run at up to 12 per hour versus the US rate of one or two per hour. Swab test time was reduced to four hours so people could be quickly isolated.
  • China changed its best hospitals to address only COVID-19, moving other patients out to routine care hospitals.
  • He says, “China is really good at keeping people alive,” noting the quality of hospitals and the extent of equipment they have.
  • The lack of universal healthcare in the US will “wreak havoc” because people will not have the money to seek treatment or to take time off from work and will remain carriers. Testing is free in China and the government covers all costs beyond insurance.
  • Technology is important in China’s response because they are tracking all 70,000 cases, they have moved schooling online, people who track contacts use online forms instead of paper, and rural areas of the country have rolled out 5G.
  • He concludes when asked if such measures would work in the US instead of China, “There has to be a shift in mindset to rapid response thinking. Are you just going to throw up your hands? There’s a real moral hazard in that, a judgment call on what you think of your vulnerable populations. Ask yourself: Can you do the easy stuff? Can you isolate 100 patients? Can you trace 1,000 contacts? If you don’t, this will roar through a community.”


I missed that Atrium Health made an official announcement recently about its move to Epic. Its Navicent Health locations in Georgia will go live in 2021 and other locations through 2023.

Meanwhile, for something completely different, HIMSS defines “digital health” (much-needed Oxford commas mine):

Digital health connects and empowers people and populations to manage health and wellness, augmented by accessible and supportive provider teams working within flexible, integrated, interoperable, and digitally-enabled care environments that strategically leverage digital tools, technologies, and services to transform care delivery.



Mr. H, Lorre, Jenn, Dr. Jayne.
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Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. MITRE has publicly announced they are no longer attending HIMSS (see twitter). This is now verified.

  2. New navigation layout is nice, but I miss the handy hyperlink to HIStalk Practice at the top of the page. Now I either have to remember the URL, add another bookmark, or scroll to the exact right place on your page to find the “Related Sites” in the sidebar, which I find somewhat annoying. It’s a tough life, I know.

  3. Both my employer and my academic home have instituted travel restrictions- the former instituting an approval process, the latter restricting it outright. I expect that even people who want to go wont be able to as these policies become more common.

  4. An appeal to those in large exhibiting companies or health systems who are “reducing their presence” or otherwise significantly removing themselves from HIMSS: Please share your status with the rest of us, anonymously if you have to, so the rest of us can make an informed decision. Smaller companies are going to take a big hit on this event next week as it is, even worse if anchor sponsors and large provider orgs are silently withdrawing.

  5. Re Alyward WHO lead.

    What a moronic set of statements. According to him China is great at healthcare and hospitals. Is he aware all this originated in China?

    Just another globalist Eurocrat with an elitist view of himself.

    Bet he’d have the worlds best doctors if he spiked a fever.

  6. Steve Lieber, the HIMSS CEO from 2000-2017, has posted a blistering criticism on Facebook about the organisation’s decision to give Trump a HIMSS20 platform. It surprises me. In my experience, some HIMSS execs are openly pro-Trump, including on Twitter. I once sat in a meeting and listened to one of them say that anyone working in healthcare in the US would have to be a Trump supporter for a number of reasons. But your HIStalk poll results suggest otherwise. The annual HIMSS conference is the organisation’s cash cow, so perhaps coronavirus and Trump will genuinely damage the organisation’s fortunes?

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