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Medical Member Organizations Like HIMSS Need a Firewall between Vendors and Members

Posted Sep 14 2012 12:00am

Mr. HIStalk had a recent item discussing HIMSS with his "reform" solution for the organization appended at the end (see: News 9/12/12 ):

: “Re: Dr. Jayne’s comment on ‘educational session’ put on for members of Congress. As someone who used to put these on, these are simply a forum for making a lobbying pitch to lawmakers and Congressional staff under the guise of education. The ‘education’ is to get lawmakers to vote in the interests of the event’s corporate sponsors.”

: Sponsors listed include HIMSS, Ingenix, Allscripts, BCBSA, and a bunch of other companies, government contractors, and member organizations. It was the Washington schmoozing and complete surrender to its Diamond members that largely turned me against HIMSS as an organization that represents me as a non-profit hospital employee and dues-paying member instead of a piece of meat offered up for ogling by its conference exhibitors. I would rather see HIMSS split into two groups, one for providers only (like it almost was before the current regime got dollar signs in their eyes) and the other being the vendor trade association that HIMSS denies being despite ample similarities.

I totally agree with Mr. HIStalk on this topic. HIMSS has been going in the wrong direction for a number of years (see: HIMSS Describes Itself as a "Trade Association" in a Press Release ;  Multiple Privileges Extended to Hospital CIOs at HIMS S;  HIMSS Virtual Conference: Qualifying for a Reduced Fee ). The problem, in my opinion, is that HIMSS is far too cozy with many healthcare IT companies, particularly the larger ones. The role of non-profit professional organizations, certainly those that are recognized as 501(c)(3)s by the IRS, should be primarily to provide educational services to its members.

I need to emphasize here that exhibitors are absolutely essential for successful medical conferences: (1) they subsidize such events that can't be offered solely on the basis of registration fees; and (2) they educate registrants in the exhibitor areas about their product offerings. However, there needs to be a firewall between such exhibitors and the conference content. In short, the exhibitors shouldn't be able to influence the content or use the organization as a conduit to its members other than in the designated exhibitor spaces.

HIMSS will never split itself into two parts. The reason is that additional revenue is generated by providing access to its members through "educational sessions" and "meet-and-greet" events as described above. HIMSS uses its members to generate revenue. The members are the bait and you always keep your bait close to you when you go fishing. The bigger you are, the bigger you get.

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