AWS, Microsoft, Meditech & more drop out of HIMSS over coronavirus concerns

Amazon's cloud computing business has joined Change Healthcare, Microsoft, Meditech and other technology giants in quietly canceling its participation in the HIMSS health tech conference, slated to begin in Orlando, Fla., on March 9.

As of March 3, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Intel and Cisco have all backed out of the conference, CNBC reports, citing concerns over the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. Additionally, AT&T, Siemens and HL7 have also opted not to attend HIMSS, according to the March 4 edition of Politico's Morning eHealth newsletter.

Meditech announced on March 5 that it was withdrawing from the event, saying in a statement, "This was a difficult decision and is certain to be questioned as an overreaction by some. However, we feel an abundance of caution is appropriate to both minimize our possible contribution to the spread of this disease and allay the fears and concerns of our staff."

Microsoft confirmed to GeekWire on March 4 that it would withdraw from the health tech conference, while both eClinicalWorks and Validic made similar announcements via their respective Twitter accounts.

Google has yet to completely cancel attendance at HIMSS, but confirmed to SearchHealthIT that the company "has decided to reduce its presence at HIMSS 2020."

In a statement posted to its website on March 4, Change Healthcare wrote, "Out of an abundance of caution, the company has elected to withdraw from participating in HIMSS20 in accordance with our travel policy and the safety guidelines provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other health authorities around the coronavirus."

The same day, Medicomp Systems issued a statement about its own withdrawl from the conference. "In light of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, we have concluded that our attendance at HIMSS poses an unacceptable health risk for our staff and their families," David Lareau, Medicomp CEO, said. "At a global event that draws more than 40,000 people, and in a state where the governor has declared a public health emergency, it seems inevitable that the virus will be circulating in the exhibit hall, hotels and/or airports. Despite the significant financial and people investments we've made in advance of the conference, we feel it is our moral imperative to put the health and safety of our people and communities first."

Many of the other cancellations have yet to be publicly announced, but were confirmed to media outlets.

AWS, which was reportedly planning on having a major presence at the health IT-focused conference, told CNBC, "We've reached this decision after much consideration, as the health and safety of our employees, customers and partners are our top priority."

"As a precaution, we have implemented travel restrictions to areas significantly impacted by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and restricted attendance at events that don't apply similar travel restrictions to attendees," an Intel spokesperson told CNBC, adding, "We're monitoring the situation closely and working to ensure that our employees have the information and resources they need to stay safe."

In addition to canceling their participation in external conferences, many of these tech giants have canceled events of their own, including the I/O developer conference, Google's largest event of the year.

HIMSS, meanwhile, is still slated to continue as usual — with President Donald Trump opening the event with a March 9 keynote address — though organizers said in a statement that they have "assembled an external panel of medical professionals to further advise our evidence-based decision-making and to ensure the safety of the healthcare community currently planning to assemble in Florida for HIMSS20."

Editor's note: This article will be updated as more cancellations are announced.

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