Almost a week into 2014 and I don’t know about you, but I’m still having a hard time focusing on the year ahead. The holidays were crazy and the weather has been even crazier. I know, I live in Chicago, where winter is hardly an alien concept. But this freeze is so deep it’s got even the most intrepid Midwesterners thinking about hibernation.

Maybe looking ahead can provide a bit of a distraction. With that goal in mind, I’ve put together a very, very abbreviated list of five health care meetings you might consider attending in 2014. A much more complete — and continually updated — calendar is available on the H&HN webpage. Just click on the Events tab at the top.

First up is the 27th Annual Rural Health Care Leadership Conference Feb. 9-12 in Phoenix. Sponsored by Health Forum, and our parent organization, the American Hospital Association, this meeting has taken off in popularity over the last few years. Hundreds of hospital leaders, policymakers and other experts come together to really dig into the challenges facing rural health care in today’s dramatically changing environment. This year’s topics range from successfully transitioning from a fee-for-service to a pay-for-performance payment model, to recruiting clinical staff, to improving trustees’ skills, to strengthening the hospital’s position through partnerships and affiliations with other hospital systems, community organizations and physicians. And, hey, it’s in Phoenix in February — enough said.

Hot on that meeting’s heels is HIMSS14, the massive health IT conference, Feb. 23-27 in Orlando. In addition to the usual issues that keep tech leaders up at night — meaningful use, interoperability, patient engagement — one of the hot topics this year will be the rollout of ICD-10 in October. Among the HIMSS keynoters will be CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Hillary Rodham Clinton of — well, you probably know a little bit about the former first lady and secretary of state.

On May 4-7, the AHA Annual Membership Meeting takes place in Washington, D.C., giving hospital leaders a chance to hear some of the best-known players from Inside the Beltway, including members of Congress, news media stars and leaders of federal agencies. A highlight of the event is a visit by AHA members to Capitol Hill to meet directly with their congressional delegations.

I promise you, Chicago will be a whole lot warmer and more fun by June 12-13 when the Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management holds its 2014 National Leadership & Educational Conference right here in the city’s Loop. Hospitals everywhere are striving to better serve our increasingly diverse populations, and this year’s meeting carries the theme “Equity: Moving Beyond Diversity.”

I may be biased — OK, I am biased — but one of the most dynamic and downright useful conferences of the year is the Health Forum and AHA Leadership Summit, which takes place July 20-22 in San Diego. Population health will be a major overall focus again this year, but there are educational sessions touching on just about every big health care topic, and offering practical strategies to implement them. The keynote speakers, whether from health care or other fields, are always dynamic, informative and entertaining — people are still talking about last year’s fantastic presentation by Magic Johnson.

H&HN Daily staff will attend all of these meetings, and will report back in blogs and video interviews. Look for all those in this space.

Of course, there are lots of other important health care meetings planned for 2014, and this list only takes us into July. I’ll mention other big events in future blogs, and, as I said earlier, our calendar is a good planning tool.