Organizers Pull Plug on Event for First Time in Nearly 60 Years Amid Global Spread of Covid-19
For the first time since the event was launched 58 years ago, organizers on Thursday cancelled the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference, due to the quickly evolving global coronavirus spread.
The plug was pulled on HIMSS20 – slated to take place in Orlando, Florida March 9-13, after the latest advisory and report updates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, HIMSS said in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon.
“In coordination with an external advisory panel of medical professionals to support evidence-based decision making, it is clear that it would be an unacceptable risk to bring so many thousands of people together in Orlando next week,” HIMSS said in its statement.
“The advisory panel recognized that industry understanding of the potential reach of the virus has changed significantly in the last 24 hours, which has made it impossible to accurately assess risk.”
Additionally, HIMSS said there were “concerns about disproportionate risk to the healthcare system given the unique medical profile of Global Conference attendees and the consequences of potentially displacing healthcare workers during a critical time, as well as stressing the local health systems were there to be an adverse event.”
HIMSS, the largest annual health IT conference, in recent years has typically attracted more than 40,000 attendees and with more than 1,300 exhibitors.
But in recent days a number of high profile exhibitors announced they were pulling out of HIMSS20 also due to concerns over Covid-19. Cisco, Amazon, Humana and Intel were among exhibitors in recent days cancelling their HIMSS20 plans.
The status of HIMSS appeared to be in flux for at least several days, as the organization told members of the media on Wednesday that the coronavirus situation was being closely monitored “on an hour-by-hour basis.”
On Monday, HIMSS announced that President Trump had planned to address the conference with a “special keynote session” on Marth 9, the day the event was to kick-off. Trump was anticipated to speak about health IT interoperability, although neither HIMSS nor the White House officially announced the topic of his appearance.