Exhibitors and sponsors are disappointed to learn that the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society will only offer them partial credit toward the fees for its annual conferences in 2021 and 2022 after the organization canceled its flagship event last month because of COVID-19.
In early April, HIMSS told 2020 exhibitors and sponsors, including Modern Healthcare, that it would credit 25% of their 2020 fees toward their participation in its 2021 and 2022 health and information technology conferences. Participants can credit 15% of their 2020 fees to the 2021 event and 10% to the 2022 event, HIMSS told vendors.
But that might not be good enough for startups like Illuminate Health, which planned to launch a new product at the event.
"Being at HIMSS was a big part of our marketing and PR strategy," said CEO and co-founder Varun Goyal.
Now some people in the industry are wondering how much to invest in the conference going forward, given that the value of attending seems to have waned in recent years as other events have cropped up and organizations find new ways to connect with each other. But Illuminate Health hasn't decided which conferences or events it will do next year given the uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic has created. HIMSS is still on the table for the company.
HIMSS' unwillingness to offer larger refunds or credits likely stems from its reliance on the event to fund its operations. Nearly half of HIMSS' 2018 revenue ($94 million) came from conferences and meetings, according to an Internal Revenue Service Form 990. Given that HIMSS canceled the event just days before it was set to begin, the organization likely lost most of the money that it sunk into organizing the conference.
"I understand their position," Goyal said. "They also have costs to cover (but) being an early-stage startup, our challenges are more immediate than bigger companies (or) even relative to HIMSS."
Other associations such as the Healthcare Financial Management Association and American College of Healthcare Executives are offering full refunds upon request.
"We're in survival mode trying to make it to next year," Goyal said. "So, when you see the refunds coming back from the other conferences, that's just awesome given the downturn in the economy."
It would have been good for HIMSS to share more of the sacrifice with its exhibitors and sponsors, he said.
HIMSS did not respond to a request for comment.