Before the 19,500 delegates and exhibitors of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society arrived in New Orleans in February to talk about wireless health care computing, computer-based patient records, telemedicine, and other repercussions of the IT revolution, the society's meeting planners had another kind of health care technology on their minds. If this year was to be anything like last year, they'd need another small fleet of scooters and motorized wheelchairs.

HIMSS rented four of each for the Dallas meeting in 2000 and could have used more, says Catherine Ryan, meeting services coordinator for the Chicago-based society. While Ryan asks registrants about their special requirements during preregistration and can help delegates find needed services, the eight mobility vehicles in New Orleans and Dallas were available as a complimentary service to members on a first-come, first-served basis.

In New Orleans, the supplier was ScootAround (www.scootaround.com), a 4-year-old, Winnipeg, Manitoba — based company that has made a business out of delivering scooters, wheelchairs, and motorized wheelchairs to travelers. ScootAround is a central reservations service that can arrange hotel deliveries to individual guests or provide fleets for conventions just about anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. For example, ScootAround expects to deliver more than 300 mobility vehicles to an Avon convention in New Orleans in August.

Considering the demand in Dallas, it was a surprise to HIMSS that in New Orleans not a single delegate made use of the scooters and wheelchairs, but Ryan doesn't regret the investment (about $200 per vehicle). “They're not easy to get on short notice if you're not familiar with the city you're in,” she says.