Earlier this week I attended the first itHealthcare Canada conference hosted by HIMSS Ontario. I had hoped to live blog and tweet from the event on my iPad but, unfortunately, the conference organizers did not make arrangement for wifi access or, if they did, I was not aware of any such arrangements. Hence, I will be publishing several blog posts after the event based on notes I took during the event.
A number of people who chose not to attend the event have asked how this event differed from the annual COACH conference. To be honest, I didn’t see much difference other than scale. Like the COACH conference, the itHealthcare Canada event featured a series of presentations, several keynote presentations, and a vendor trade show. While the itHealthcare Canada content was more Ontario focused than the COACH conference, the nature of the presentations was similar in many ways to the COACH conference presentations that I have attended.
As I did at the COACH conference this year, I wandered the show floor asking the vendors whether the trade show was worth their investment in time and money. For the most part, their feedback was neutral to critical. While a few vendors felt that it was worth these costs they incurred, most vendors complained, as they did at the COACH conference, that the traffic through the booths was quite light and many stated that they had generated few new leads.
I did find several of the presentations to be quite informative and the networking opportunities were superb (for me, at least). I will write several blog posts over the next few days on a few of the presentations that I attended.
A topic of many of the hallways conversations in which I engaged was the need for another “national” health IT conference. While the HIMSS Ontario conference clearly had an Ontario flavour, it was billed as a “Canadian” conference (just look at the name). There was considerable debate, particularly among the vendors, of the challenge in deciding which of the increasing number of health IT related conferences to attend. Many of the larger vendors (CGI, Oracle, and IBM, for example) chose not to exhibit at the ITHealthcare Canada conference. I’d be interested to hear what others think about this question.
Speaking of vendors, I felt that the vendors were discriminated against at the ITHealthcare Canada conference. To start, vendors were not allowed to submit presentation abstracts for consideration. Further, there was a different fee structure for vendors. I feel very strongly that vendors are an integral part of the Canadian health IT landscape and have much to offer. It is not clear to me (and others) why HIMSS Ontario chose to treat them differently. Anyone else have any thoughts on this topic?