Post-HIMSS Exhaustion Syndrome

Craig Joseph, MD
By: Craig Joseph, MD
Date: February 14, 2019

You’re likely reading this on one of the last days of the HIMSS annual conference, or maybe just as it’s ended. If you attended HIMSS this year, you might be suffering from PHES (Post-HIMSS Exhaustion Syndrome). And before you go where I know you’re going, let me cut you off and tell you that I do not know the proper ICD-10-CM code for PHES.

I’ve been attending the HIMSS conference for well over a decade, and that’s enough jaunts through the exhibit hall to have learned a thing or two. I’ve been an exhibitor, and I’ve been an attendee. Heck, often I’ve been both! Every year there are a plethora of blog posts telling newbies what to expect, where to eat, and how to dress. There are posts predicting this year’s trends: what’s in and what’s out in the healthcare information technology universe. There are even posts telling vendors how to act and engage us mortals on the floor (pro tip: put the phone away!). There are not, at least not routinely, posts giving advice about what to do if/when you survive HIMSS and are on the way home. Fear not, fair reader! I have written such a post!

My first suggestion is to take care of yourself. A lot of people spend three or four days in Orlando or Las Vegas not getting enough sleep, eating too much, not exercising, and maybe even having a drink or two too many. Now is the time to change your evil ways. Catch up on your sleep, start eating a healthy diet (who am I kidding? Maybe a healthier diet), and get back into your exercise regime. Do these things sooner rather than later.

While you may be tempted to jump right into your work email on your flight home, don’t do it. You probably spent many hours meeting people and learning things. While all of this goodness is still fresh in your head, act on it right away. Do you have pockets filled with business cards? Get those contacts into your database as soon as possible. Perhaps you’ve scribbled notes such as “follow-up with this guy re: new functionality” or “this hospital has implemented version 8 successfully; ask them how.” While those words likely have meaning to you now, in a few weeks, you’ll be hard pressed to remember specific details, and in a few months, I’d predict low probability that you’ll be able to recall a thing. Strike while the iron is hot and get your contacts and notes into your computer.

Are you hoping to get continuing education credits for attending the HIMSS conference? If so, enter that information right away so you can remember what sessions you attended and claim your CEUs. You’ve already paid the price and done the work: don’t lose your opportunity to be rewarded for all that. If you’re not ready to spend time getting your continuing learning documented now, at the very least you should set a reminder to do it in a week or two. Depending upon the granting organization, some of you will have to claim your CEUs before March 15! See the HIMSS FAQ page for more info.

You’re likely behind on your work (and maybe even personal) email. You know you’ve got to get back on the horse, but maybe you’re overwhelmed. Start by looking for messages from people who are important in your life: your boss(es), key colleagues, and even your friends. Naturally, work from most recent to oldest so that you don’t respond to issues that have already been resolved in your absence. Skip over those vendor emails that you’d like to respond to, but just can’t focus on right now. It’s ok; they’ll wait and be even more excited when you respond in a week or two. I recommend extreme honesty when explaining your delayed response to email: “Sorry I’m so late getting back to you. I’ve been at a conference, and I really wanted to focus on the speakers and great information that I was getting. Now that I’m back, here’s what I think about the question . . .” (free plug for Text Expander!)

Finally, reacquaint yourself with your family, friends, and loved ones, especially if you don’t travel very often. You might have been out of their lives for most of the week, so you’ve missed out on events big and small. Figure out what those are, and get caught up.

I almost forgot the most important tip for post-HIMSS happiness! Make sure that everyone (your family, your colleagues, the guy who lives next door) knows about how horrible the weather was in Orlando. Sure, I’m writing this before the conference even starts, yet still somehow, I just know the weather was terrible. It rained and rained. Maybe there was even some snow Tuesday night. And lightning. Yeah, that’s the ticket: there was thundersnow in Orlando. It was horrible!

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