UPDATE: March 6, 2019: HIMSS20 was canceled Thursday over concerns about the spread of a novel coronavirus.
- President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in Orlando next week, HIMSS Communications Director Karen Groppe confirmed Monday.
- Despite calls to cancel or postpone HIMSS this year amid the outbreak of a novel coronavirus now spreading in the U.S., HIMSS20 is "at present, scheduled to proceed," Groppe told reporters. Trump is anticipated to speak Monday at 4pm.
- The conference has not yet released publicly what Trump plans to address, but the president could use the soapbox to allay public fears about the coronavirus outbreak or address the federal government's efforts to push the industry toward interoperability.
HIMSS, scheduled to run from March 9 to March 13, is one of the largest conferences in health IT, drawing roughly 43,000 attendees from around the world last year.
But the build-up to this year's conference has been marred by worries of the further spread of coronavirus, which the CDC has said is inevitable.
Two Washington state men have died so far as a result of COVID-19, and two people in Florida have tested positive for the disease: one in Manatee County and one in Hillsborough County. Hillsborough is a roughly two-hour drive from the populous city of Orlando, where HIMSS is being held in the 7 million-square-foot Orange County Convention Center.
IT giant Cisco said Saturday it would no longer attend the conference due to the outbreak. HIMSS staff declined to share how many more vendors, if any, had decided to withdraw, saying it was the vendors' decisions to share.
"We strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances," San Jose, California-based Cisco wrote in a statement.
HIMSS has already taken a number of precautions to mitigate potential community spread of coronavirus, including three onsite medical clinics (one devoted just to attendees with flu-like symptoms), an increased number of hand sanitation sites and access to telemedicine services. Information booths will provide medical-grade face masks on demand and this year's iteration of the conference will be handshake-free.
HIMSS has also assembled a panel of third-party medical professors to advise the conference on further steps to tamp down on virus transmission.
The conference comes as industry waits for final versions of long-promised HHS rules to stop information blocking and help patients gain control over their medical data. Last year, HHS agencies ONC and CMS released the proposed versions of their twin rules during the conference.