The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society has chosen Las Vegas over Chicago for its 2012 convention. The event will be held Feb. 20-24, 2012, at the Sands Expo Convention Center.

Chicago-based HIMSS, which held its convention in its home town earlier this year, rejected having the event in Chicago again in 2012 primarily because of the high cost of electrician services at the city’s McCormick Place convention center, says H. Stephen Lieber, president and CEO.

“HIMSS’ own electrical bill went from $40,000 in Orlando in 2008 to $240,000 in Chicago,” Lieber notes. Individual exhibitors who had identical-sized booths in the two cities saw their electrical bills go up by a range of from four times to as much as 10 times, he adds. “You expect higher costs in a more unionized city like Chicago,” the HIMSS CEO says. “But it was not a difference in the hourly labor rates so much as inefficient and archaic works rules, slowness in how quickly work got done and the number of people it took to get work done.”

After negotiations with the electrician’s union in Chicago, Lieber says he concluded that HIMSS lacked adequate assurance that “we’d have a different pricing experience in 2012 than we had in 2009.”

The 2012 event will mark the first time the HIMSS Conference will be held in Las Vegas. That’s because until the recent expansion of the Sands Expo Convention Center, the city lacked a venue with enough space to accommodate both HIMSS’ exhibits and education sessions, Leiber says.

Attendance at the 2009 event in Chicago totaled 27,429, down from 29,179 in Orlando. Lieber predicts the 2010 event in Atlanta will attract between 25,000 and 29,000 attendees, depending on whether economic conditions improve. He also acknowledges that many vendors and hospitals alike are awaiting the release of the proposed final rule for how to qualify for federal economic stimulus money for electronic health records, due out at the end of this year, before deciding on investments for 2010 and beyond.

--Howard Anderson

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