Healthcare IT Blog

Musings on HIMSS 2014

Published on 03/12/2014 by Jay Bazzinotti
Category: Healthcare IT

HIMSS 2014 was my first trade show as a Park Place employee, and my first experience with the healthcare IT industry. I was standing in the booth the first day of the event when a man came by and looked around.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Not really,” he said, “We used to use Park Place International but my company switched to another vendor. But sometimes I still get advice from your people.”

I asked him if he stopped by to meet some old friends and colleagues. That happened a great deal at this show. We got to talking and I told him I recently joined the company.

“Oh really?” he said, standing up, “Look around you. Look at this show. See all these people? They all know who you are, who Park Place is. Your reputation is well known, whether they use MEDITECH or whoever. You have a reputation for doing it right. It’s a good crew. Good luck with them.”

It made a warm feeling to hear that and a promising start for the show, but it wouldn’t be the last time I heard similar things. A competitor came to visit at one point and asked if we would be interested in partnering with them to do their installs.

“We have tons of consultants,” he said, “But we can’t seem to find any capable integrators and we like your work.”

We declined.  Across from us, MEDITECH was doing a brisk business, their booth crowded with customers, the salespeople making the most of their precious seconds to teach the latest and greatest – and sometimes pointing those customers in our direction.

The show was a grueling three day marathon of smiling, shaking hands, speaking with potential customers and partners, gathering show toys, watching second-rate magicians, drinking coffee and listening to sales pitches from the hundreds of vendors who attended. At one end of the hall was the Interoperability Lab, a mock hospital with waiting rooms, registration desks, chronic care rooms, ERs and hospice facility mock-ups. In these rooms were beds and tools and equipment surrounded by sales techs in white coats and nurses uniforms displaying how all this medical technology interoperated. It was one of the most impressive things I saw at the show until I came to the last lab – a neo-natal ICU with a life-like baby doll on life support. Too much reality for me. I suddenly felt sad and hurried away. As I walked out I heard a man in a suit muttering, “Someday all this will work together, but it sure doesn’t now. I don’t care what they’re saying.”

Across from the Lab was the massive booth of a leading HCIS vendor. It was clearly a show highlight, probably 100 feet square, with plush ultra-white carpeting and white furnishings and a white conference room. “We throw the carpet away after every show,” a Marketing specialist with smiling eyes said to me, “After three days, we could never clean it.” It was almost 10,000 square feet of carpet. I asked her how much that cost and if they did many trade shows, “It costs a lot,” she laughed, “I don’t know how much – but we can afford it these days!” The booth was filled with people and they clearly didn’t have to drag in customers.

Nearby was the trade-show ubiquitous “Start-Up City”. Having had to staff those miserable booths many times in my career I went to offer my moral support and commiseration. There were probably 50 companies, cheek by jowl, in tiny 5 foot lemonade stands strung together in crowded rows. These are the low-rent slums of the trade show circuit with vendors trying to pitch their nascent technologies and ideas to those visitors brave enough to run the gauntlet of hungry, desperate business men with their datasheets and dreams of one day becoming another MEDITECH or Johnson & Johnson.

And on it went, to booths with free coffee stands and baristas, seminars on Meaningful Use, colorful charts with graphs depicting the failure of the competition and so much spectacle as to make a visit worthwhile just from that standpoint of experiencing the creativity and imagination of this three-day, instant city appearing magically overnight inside the Orlando Convention Center, some booths equipped with second floor conference rooms, flying buttresses, putt-putt golf courses and even a life size orchard.

The beauty of the show was that it proved, over and over again, that despite all our new meeting technologies, videoconference devices, podcasts, tweets and Face time apps, these shows are still a valuable opportunity to create profitable partnerships, find customers and make more contacts in less time than any other modern method, in fact, more than could ever be actually realized – there just wasn’t enough time in the day or Dr. Scholl’s for aching feet to accomplish it all. And the hopes and dreams of every company was on display as they would scream, “Look at me!”. It’s high tech business life on a grand scale.

Jay Bazzinotti serves as a Product Manager at Park Place International. Jay has 25 years of product management experience bringing technology solutions to market. He holds patents in networking, security, load-balancing, and failover, with the technology deployed in thousands of sites worldwide.  Jay’s current mission is to assist in the design, development, and delivery of technology solutions that enable MEDITECH hospitals to deliver services to their users securely and reliably.