HIMSS of praise and frustration (#HIMSS14)


It’s the most Tweeted health care conference in the world.

As such, the Health Information Management System Society annual meeting held in Orlando starting Feb. 23 represents the best and worst of Twitter use in support of health care conferences.

An estimated 37,000 people and 1200 vendors will attend #HIMSS14 to discuss the latest developments in e-health and the use of health information technology (HIT) to support the U.S. health care system. The conference is relatively short on current HIT research but a font of best practices, pilot projects, opinions, commentaries and prognostications .

This is a conference that puts capital letters on concepts such as Meaningful Use (as in, requirements that physicians and hospitals must meet to cash in on government incentives to promote the implementation of electronic medical records) and, more recently Patient Engagement (but to be clear, this is a conference about engaging patients and not for engaged patients ).

At HIMSS everybody wants to talk to everybody else and many want to try and sell you the latest in security/privacy/patient portal/EHR software or hardware.  Those in attendance are leaders in the use of communications technology in health care and eager to share their messages and thoughts.

As a result it is no surprise that the #HIMSS hashtag is ground zero for all of this.

According to HIMSS officials, the number of tweets associated with the meeting hashtag has grown from almost 16,000 in 2011 to almost 39,000 in 2013 and tweets are already trending 90% higher than last year when 7,000 people contributed comments. Others have predicted that when retweets are included the number of tweets associated with this year’s meeting could top 70,000 after hitting 60,000 last year.

While this makes the meeting hashtag a comprehensive way of following what is going on at the meeting minute-by-minute it has also demonstrated why a meeting hashtag can be a frustrating tool and even counterproductive, for the following reasons:

  • With hundreds of people live tweeting and serving as “transcribers” for what is being said at the main speeches, be prepared for dozens of repetitive tweets about exactly what Hillary Clinton and others are saying.
  • Spammers love this meeting and several times during the event the channel becomes unusable with some tools because of the number of scantily-clad women avatars posting spam
  • Those with something to sell well understand Twitter and repeatedly post advertisements for their product/booth on the meeting hashtag.

So, if you are attending the meeting and trying to follow what is going on at the sessions you can’t attend, #HIMSS14 is a feasible but often frustrating option. The numerous expert bloggers who curate information and provide their take on the meeting may well be a better bet.

A number of sub-meeting hashtags also come into play at HIMSS but these are often inconsistently used.

So, if you want #HIMSS14 to be your showcase to the latest e-health developments in the U.S., you have been warned.

Of course, Twitter is just one of the social media tools being used at HIMSS and those will be discussed in another blog post. And, as I too will be joining that army of live twitter transcriptionists in Orlando be prepared for my own outpouring of #HIMSS14 related-tweets.





3 thoughts on “HIMSS of praise and frustration (#HIMSS14)

  1. Thanks for this warning, Pat. HIMSS and other binge-tweet tech fests are utterly painful events if you happen to follow more than a handful of the 37,000 potential live-tweeters who will be attending.

    I am begging you – yes, BEGGING! – to encourage HIMSS attendees to heed the wise advice of Joe McCarthy (@gumption) – http://gumption.typepad.com/blog/2013/11/a-modest-proposal-use-replies-and-hashtags-for-live-tweeting-and-tweet-chats.html Joe writes:

    “Any sufficiently large number of signals is indistinguishable from noise. I suspect this principle does not figure prominently in the consciousness of people who are live-tweeting from conferences. I have filtered and even unfollowed several people who have gone on live-tweeting or tweet chatting binges, as I do not care to have my main Twitter feed consumed by tweets from events.”

    Joe’s advice: begin every tweet from the conference (this conference and every other conference we will ever attend) with @ – as in @HIMSS14 – which hides the tweet from anyone who does not follow both the tweeter and the event. End each tweet with the designated event hashtag so it will be included for all who are actually following the event’s Twitter feed – as in #HIMSS14.

    There’s one exception to this proposal, as Joe explains, for “exceptional insights and observations that I believe may be of general interest beyond those who are at or interested in the conference” in which it’s acceptable to just start tweeting without the @replies feature at the beginning of each tweet.

    I live in hope that at least some of the 37,000 HIMSS participants will read this before it’s too late to save the rest of us from the deafening “noise”.


  2. Totally agree! So much trash and spam and self-promotion.

    This why the past two HIMSS conferences and again for 2014 I have actually created the @HIMSSnn accounts noted by Carolyn. See https://twitter.com/himss12 and https://twitter.com/himss13. Now I have https://www.twitter.com/himss14 and the following blog http://himss14.blogspot.com/ .

    Of course this takes a lot of time on my account. In fact I take PTO some of the days of the conference just to provide this service. The people who follow these “no name” accounts are of generally high-caliber and title. I realize I’m not benefiting directly but I really don’t care.

    So far I’ve largely been incognito but this new blog post certainly reveals my identity.


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