COVID Dramatically Reduced RSNA Attendees, But Providers Were Very Happy


A key to remember from 2021 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting was that size does not always matter. Although the number of RSNA in-person professional attendees has been reduced by approximately two-thirds from the number before the 2019 pandemic (down to approximately 11,000 in-person professional attendees in Chicago), the show The exhibition seemed very busy. The vendors also universally said they had much more serious interactions with attendees than in previous years before the pandemic.

I expected a slow exhibition floor and largely empty booths. I expected to finish walking on the floor and visiting the booths I wanted to see in the first couple of days. But I was wrong. I was busy until the end of the four days of exhibition hours. The show was very lively and I found that many of the stands I went to were full of people. Not the crazy, compact crowds of some pre-pandemic RSNAs in the past, but still very busy. I found in many booths that it was difficult to access a workstation for the demonstrations, as there were more people than expected from hospitals for the demonstrations.

The RSNA released preliminary attendance figures on the first day of the show. The RSNA typically has around 60,000 participants, split approximately 50-50 between professional participants and providers. This year the number of on-site registrations was 21,300, which was also about half between 11,200 professional attendees and the rest being vendors. There were also approximately 5,400 virtual business participants online. Together, this represents approximately 26,400 participants.

“We had a very meaningful meeting – the tire shooters stayed home this year,” said Peter Durlach, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Nuance at RSNA. This sentiment was echoed by a dozen other vendors who said three or four days after the show started that they had had very good conversations with attendees. A few vendors have said they have more serious leads this year than in 2019, the last time the RSNA held an in-person meeting just before the start of the pandemic.

The consensus of the vendors I have spoken with is that after two years of not being able to see products in person and now that healthcare organizations have a better grasp of the new working standard in the COVID era, hospitals and clinics have decided to go ahead with the purchasing decisions. Much capital spending planned from 2020 has been put on hold due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, especially after many providers shut down non-essential services for three months in a bid to reduce infection rates and have lost a lot of income. It now appears that last year’s spending freezes have thawed.

This good news is a far cry from what vendors were saying at the 2021 Healthcare Information Systems Management Society (HIMSS) in August 2021. Many expected HIMSS to be the light at the end of the tunnel and the first major in-person medical conference. . post-COVID. As vaccines appeared to beat the virus and reduce positivity rates to the lowest rates since the start of the pandemic, the Delta variant exploded into a new wave of cases just a month before HIMSS.

Many of the same vendors at RSNA were also showcasing their radiology computer systems at HIMSS. HIMSS unfortunately held their event in Las Vegas, which was hit hard by the Delta variant. HIMSS opening day saw a 21% COVID positivity rate in the city. Many vendors and attendees canceled about a week before the conference as virus cases skyrocketed in the city.

HIMSS vendors said that despite the drastically reduced numbers (around about a third of generally pre-pandemic professional participants), they also said their interactions were more serious and there were no shooters. tires. The people attending HIMSS and making appointments with vendors were serious and were mostly there to buy something, which also seems to be the same for RSNA. However, many HIMSS vendors felt that there was a massive drop in the number of participants walking on the floor, which seemed much less busy than RSNA 2021. Some vendors also complained about large open spaces on the floor next door. from their stands where a large number of suppliers have withdrawn. and the spaces between the two were not closed. Many have said they will have serious discussions about participating in HIMSS in the future if the pandemic continues due to the lack of leads to justify the exhibition expense.

The RSNA 2021 show was very busy despite a lower attendance.

The RSNA 2021 show was very busy despite a lower attendance.

Despite the requirement for all participants to be fully immunized and to wear masks at HIMSS and RSNA, a small number of positive COVID cases were still reported at both conferences. The ITN The team was told through contact tracing at both conferences that we were in close contact with an employee of the supplier who tested positive for COVID within days of the conference. While the risk is minimized by the precautions taken by conferences and individual participants, there is still a risk of infection from traveling and meeting with large numbers of people at a conference.

COVID-19 is the elephant in the room that will impact all medical conferences going forward until the pandemic is over. It’s a wild card, and it can make or break a conference. It all depends on the timing, local positivity rates, whether there is another major wave of cases leading hospitals to implement travel restrictions for clinicians, and precautions implemented by conferences. The safe bet is to go virtual, but there is really a lot of translation loss on a virtual screen compared to in-person meetings and vendor demonstrations.

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