HIMSS 20 Canceled Amid Coronavirus Concerns

By Jack O’Brien

HIMSS 20, the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), has been canceled due to concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to a press release Thursday afternoon.

“Made apparent by recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus continues to spread globally and the situation is so dynamic that each day brings a new development,” the statement read. “It is clearly necessary to cancel the 2020 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition.”

This is the first time HIMSS has been canceled since the conference began in 1962.

In recent days, several major companies including Cisco, Amazon, and Microsoft, decided to withdraw from the conference, which typically draws around 45,000 attendees, due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

On Sunday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency and the CDC confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19 in the state.

On Monday, HIMSS Senior Director of Strategic Communications Karen Groppe said the event would “proceed as scheduled,” though organizers sought to reduce the risk of contracting the virus at the conference.

HIMSS issued a guidance last week that it would be a “handshake-free” event to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The decision to cancel the event came one day after Centers for Medicare & Medicaid ordered hospitals and nursing homes to ensure that infection control procedures are in place to handle the coronavirus.

In addition to the thousands of attendees, CMS Administrator Seema Verma and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar were invited to speak at HIMSS’ special keynote sessions.

President Donald Trump was also scheduled to address the conference next Monday.

Jack O’Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.