Hotels open up for HIMSS13

Here’s a quick travel update for those of you still making plans for HIMSS13 in New Orleans next month. Today, OnPeak, the travel service that HIMSS has contracted with, seems to have released a number of hotel rooms for the week of the conference.

I had been waiting to book for a few weeks since I first heard that rooms would open on Jan. 30 or so after vendors, which apparently claimed big blocks of rooms months ago, had to give their final numbers. That didn’t happen, and I was starting to sweat a bit. But I made my reservation today, and am near enough to the Morial Convention Center that I don’t have to worry if I miss the last shuttle of the evening, which I’ve done plenty of times in past years. I feel bad for anyone staying out by the airport in Metairie or Kenner, because that’s a good 10-13 miles away. From my experience in other HIMSS cities, those bus trips can easily take 45 minutes to an hour during rush hour, and the buses don’t run all that frequently. HIMSS won’t be going back to San Diego anytime soon because so many people had to stay out by La Jolla the last time the conference was there in 2006, and that is closer to the San Diego Convention Center than the airport hotels are in New Orleans.

Back then,  seven years ago, attendance had swelled to a then-record 25,000, and stayed in that range for a couple of years. But then came the HITECH Act and meaningful use in 2009, and interest in health IT has soared. Last year, more than 37,000 people came to HIMSS12 in Las Vegas, where hotels are plentiful. The Big Easy might not be as big a draw as Sin City, but it might be for some people who prefer authentic culture to the manufactured kind. (For the record, I like both places.) I’ve heard registration was slower this year than last, but I didn’t get that directly from HIMSS.

If you do find yourself stuck, I did notice in the last couple of weeks that there are a good number of hotels with vacancies across the Mississippi River in Gretna and Marrero and points east, such as Chalmette and New Orleans East. But there is no HIMSS shuttle to those places, and good luck finding a car to rent unless you’re willing to spend $90 a day. Go ahead, search for a car rental with airport pickup and try to find one for less during the week of March 3. (You can get one from an off-airport location for about $31 a day if you’re willing to take a taxi into town first to pick it up.)

This leads me to wonder if this might be the last time for a while that HIMSS meets in New Orleans. I think a couple of extra shuttle routes could fix the problem. And if attendance does level off or even drop a bit since we’ve probably passed the peak of the Gartner Hype Cycle, then it’s all good. Given some of the recent pushback against the direction of meaningful use and the efficacy of current EHR technology, I think it’s safe to say we are in or headed to the trough of disillusionment this year.

I’ll have more later this week about HIMSS, including what I’m trying to get from the conference. Vendors, please pay attention. I’m finally about to start working on my schedule, but I will have specific objectives.