Comdex days for healthcare IT

The HIMSS trade show floor looks like an old Comdex, filled chock-a-block with vendors large and small. The swag is flowing like water, the buzzwords are flying like folks understand them, and there’s a gold rush fever in the whole thing.

HIMSS logoI drove from Atlanta to Orlando this morning and entered a time warp.

The healthcare IT area, which calls its annual trade show HIMSS, is partying like it’s 1989.

By that I mean the HIMSS trade show floor looks like an old Comdex, filled chock-a-block with vendors large and small. The swag is flowing like water, the buzzwords are flying like folks understand them, and there’s a gold rush fever in the whole thing.

It’s a collision of an irresistable force and a (so far) immovable object. Estimates are only 10% of physicians are using Electronic Medical Records, yet politicians of every stripe insist that EMRs are the cure for the nation’s health care ills. It’s about the only thing they do agree on.

The industry’s traditional vendors, like Cerner, have immense booths with plush carpeting and empty chairs. Their slogan is "All Together," and they’re showcasing the efforts of their biggest customers.

The IBM booth nearby is one-fourth the size with four times the crowd. Its slogan is "Stop Talking, Start Doing." There are a myriad of solutions offered to big hospitals, everything from e-views of medical data to medical images storing to IT services management.

IBM employees in black shirts are busy demonstrating how all the parts become a whole, offering to sell pieces or systems, drawing good response because it’s obvious they have done their homework.

Most of the vendors are like RedHat, relative newbies trying to find their way. RedHat’s booth pushes the software of its partners. They are also running a contest to drop laptops for kids in any of four foreign countries.

Despite the immense size of the show floor – it fills the entire building – most of the booths are tiny, practically stands. There are vendors in all sorts of spaces which you would never find at most business shows, Kodak selling scanners, operators standing by, even a dozen vendors listed under "mainframes."

There’s also what can only be called some hazing of the newbies.

Google is here, bragging that Dr. Eric Schmidt will deliver a "keynote address" on Thursday afternoon. Only one problem. By Thursday nearly everyone will have left. Few will even be here when Steve Case presents Revolution Health on Wednesday.

I can’t help getting a kick out of that.

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