The PACSman Awards: HIMSS 2014 edition

By Michael J. Cannavo, contributing writer

March 5, 2014 -- The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference is a completely different show than RSNA's annual confab in Chicago. RSNA is more serious, while HIMSS has an almost carnival atmosphere to it.

RSNA 2013 had maybe a dozen giveaways -- tops -- with each valued at less than $1; of the more than 1,200 booths at HIMSS 2014, maybe a dozen did not give something away, with gifts ranging from emblazoned pens to stuffed animals to Vespa scooters.

Michael J. Cannavo
PACS consultant Michael J. Cannavo.

For refreshment, RSNA 2013 had small wrapped candy, period, while HIMSS featured fresh cinnamon-roasted almonds and pecans, popcorn, scones, muffins, and so much more. HIMSS 2014 also exemplified Ogden Nash's saying: "Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker," with beer and wine served in several exhibitor booths most afternoons.

While HIMSS 2014 was an exhausting show, allowing only 21 hours in three days to walk 500,000 sq ft, the festive approach made it a lot of fun. That said, HIMSS wasn't all a bed of roses. What was annoying? A few things stuck out:

  • Vendors who would literally stand in the hallway and pull you in to give you a presentation about a product you had no interest in at all. By the end of the second day, I had to play Roberto Duran and say, "No más." Enough already. Thankfully, they didn't have the corporate dance teams this year like they did a few years past, or I would have been in the Orange County jail on manslaughter charges.
  • Fifteen dollars per day to park my car, only to walk half a mile or more to get to where I was going. Gotta love the overflow parking lot that took cash only. I wonder how much of that money actually made it into the till.
  • Pens with no paper. Last time I checked, this was the electronic age, although in fairness there were a lot of pens that had the back ends you could use on a tablet as well.
  • Vendors who spent more time on cellphones than dealing with customers. Now, you can argue that most were checking their Twitter accounts -- and there were more than 60,000 tweets from HIMSS -- but come on people, let's be real. You know you weren't checking corporate emails but instead texting your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend (or all of the above), while ignoring those walking into your booth seeking information on your product.
  • Requests for connections on LinkedIn the day after the show from at least four individuals whom I never met -- and all from one particular company.

Now that the negative is out of the way, here's a look at the lighter side of HIMSS 2014.

"I swear boss I am not lying down on the job. It's research ..."

I like a company that makes you work for your giveaway. Nothing beats a bicycle-powered smoothie maker.

Will anyone who has not won a KLAS award please raise their hand?

"Hello, HR? I'd like to file a complaint about being made to wear these silly costumes."

Actually, the costumes were for a good cause, helping to recruit people to pack lunches for Second Harvest Food Bank. More than 250 HIMSS participants packed lunches for more than 4,000 needy families in the area, so thanks to the ladies for being such good sports about it.

There were about a dozen no-shows, but I thought the Maryland-based National Death Index being a no-show was completely appropriate ... rest in peace.

I loved how my badge hung right above my belly so they could scan my name. I was waiting for it to beep and say, "You are 42 pounds overweight." The Captain Obvious scanner company wins again.

I didn't get this fine gentleman's name, but I haven't seen Russian generals with quite as many badges. I was impressed.

It may just be "another brick in the wall," as Pink Floyd sang, but if you were stuck behind one of these Berlin walls, it was a kiss of death in terms of sight lines. Three companies had them; they should be banned.

I love companies who aren't afraid to talk SMAC.

Being No. 1 is one thing, but sticking out your tongue and saying "nanny nanny boo boo" to your competitors is beyond juvenile. As I posted on HIStalk, all they needed were the lyrics to the Christian hymn "How Great Thou Art" on a storyboard, with an audio loop of Queen's "We Are the Champions" playing in the background. Their whole booth was pompous and arrogant. Marketing team, are you listening?

"Um ... I think I found your cellphone, dude."

Amen and alleluia!

Best bumper stickers and buttons of the show belonged to this company. The ones that aren't shown include "I'm here because you broke something," "No, I won't fix your computer," "Users -- also known as job security," and others. Love their sense of humor as I did these guys, who also explained their correlation of passwords to underwear: Don't leave them in the open, change them regularly, and don't loan them to strangers.

Another awesome giveaway: "What do you mean my workstation is down? Set phasers to stun."

Tell me again how much I'm paid to do this?

"Yeah, baby!" Now these guys know how to throw a party.

Exodus 9:1 -- "Let my people go!"

Note to RSNA: Orlando has it all!

Michael J. Cannavo is known industry-wide as the PACSman. After several decades as an independent PACS consultant, he spent two years working as a strategic accounts manager with a major PACS vendor. He has now made it back safely from the dark side and is sharing his observations in this Straight Talk From the PACSman series.

His healthcare consulting services for end users include PACS optimization services, system upgrade and proposal reviews, service contract reviews, and other areas. The PACSman is also working with imaging and IT vendors developing both global and trade show-specific marketing programs using market-focused messaging. He can be reached at or by phone at 407-359-0191.

The comments and observations expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of

Copyright © 2014

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