SHIFT Communications experts discuss all things healthcare and media.

Reflecting on the #HIMSSanity of #HIMSS12

By Amanda Guisbond (@agbond) & Kristi Eells (@kristi_eells)

Photo courtesy of Bobby Gladd’s HHS Regional Extension Center, an independent blog in support of the REC initiative

As we’d teed up in our 2/14 post, last week was the health IT industry event of the year –The 2012 Annual HIMSS Conference & Exhibition, also known as #HIMSS12. As an AOR client of SHIFT’s, we had the unique opportunity to attend the week-long event as an extended part of the Communications team.  Essentially our job was to man the Press Room, registering and answering questions for attending media, as well as take on some of the social media work (which the HIMSS Social Media Team so flawlessly executes year-round!) specific to the Conference.

Having finally “recovered” from an incredible week at HIMSS12, we wanted to reflect on our big event takeaways, personal highlights and impressions of the health IT crowd, from a PR/communications perspective.  In short, we’ve never felt more enthusiasm for this space and the people that populate the world o’ healthcare.  As for…

The Press Room

As HIMSS12 was our first trip to the show, we couldn’t help but ask reporters in the Press Room, what number HIMSS is this for you?  Some folks – such as Joe Conn with Modern Healthcare and Tom Sullivan with Government Health IT – have been coming to the HIMSS Annual Conference for 10+ years!  And these folks were no stranger to one another – it was really neat to see editors from all different trade and business publications greet each other and talk about the “buzz” at HIMSS12.  In fact, for days straight, reporters would walk into the room and shout, “When is the ‘Rule’ gonna drop?!” referring to the Stage 2 Meaningful Use Rule (which was announced by week’s end).  The energy and camaraderie among these folks was palpable.

Fresh faces were exciting to see – folks like Russ Britt from MarketWatch had success with a healthcare story awhile back (he’s in the LA Bureau and covers a wide array of topics, including most recently the Oscars) and wanted to attend HIMSS12 to do some more pieces on health IT.  The Joel Stein, a freelancer on assignment for BusinessWeek, was writing about the “feel of a convention” and was blown away by the volume of folks at the Conference.  Ellen Licking, a veteran pharmaceutical/biotech industry reporter noted she was newer to the health IT space and was looking to see how it fit within pharma while at the show.  Jonathan Cohn, of The New Republic and on assignment with The Atlantic, started the week a healthcare newbie and ended it “totally converted” to the beat (and people).

Across the board and despite 10+ or zero past HIMSS experiences – all attending media were excited and passionate about meeting with exhibitors, attending sessions and discussing the big topics in the press room.  What’s more the array of publications represented at the Conference demonstrates the stake the general public is increasingly having in health IT.

Social Media

HIMSS12 didn’t just break attendance records – about 37,000+ in all – but it broke a social media record for the most tweets at a healthcare conference.  As social media nerds, we were pumped to see the level of tweeting live from the Conference and often found ourselves “listening” to sessions and keynotes from the Press Room via Twitter.  Halfway through the conference an attendee coined the hashtag #HIMSSanity to describe the incredible mass of people, exhibits and opportunities taking place.  And what we love about the HIMSS Social Media team is that instead of crashing the party and burying the newly adopted hashtag, they celebrated it by attaching it to the already well-known #HIMSS12.  Social media became essential for us PR folks to brand ourselves via our Twitter handle @healthycomms and maintain connections throughout the Conference (and after!) with influencers such as Regina Holliday (@reginaholliday), Brian Ahier (@ahier), Don Fluckinger (@donfluckinger), and John Lynn (@techguy).

Because there were too many “cool” things to capture in one blog post, one fun feature was the “Buzz Board,” a giant screen in the HIMSS Social Media Center that showed real-time tweets by folks using the Conference hashtag.  Did we tweet at one point and then wait to take a picture of @healthycomms on screen?  Yes.

The Future

Now that “healthcare camp” as we’ll fondly refer to it is over, it’s time to think about what we’d do the same and differently at HIMSS13 in New Orleans.  One thing we’ll be focusing our sights on: getting even more stakeholders in the consumer space involved, through traditional and social approaches, and finding convincing arguments for folks at influential outlets with a broader technology focus – Mashable, Wired, ReadWriteWeb – to get involved.

If you attended HIMSS12, what was your major takeaway?  Did you use social while at/virtually following the Conference?  What would you like to see more of at HIMSS13?

Disclosure:  As we mentioned, HIMSS is a client of SHIFT Communications. If you have questions specific to HIMSS and our PR efforts and would like to reach out directly, please email

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3 thoughts on “Reflecting on the #HIMSSanity of #HIMSS12

  1. Pingback: Reflections on HIMSS12 from a Public Relations Point of View | HIMSS Blog

  2. LOVE it! Thanks for your summary. Long live #HIMSSanity. ^_^

  3. Thanks for reading and for the hashtag fun, Lawrence!

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