Taking the Temperature of Healthcare: SHSMD Connections 2018

Taking the temperature of healthcare. That is one of the most important aspects of attending the Annual Conference of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD). Too often, organizations look inward as the year progresses, and we all identify challenges, issues, solutions, and achievements that we are dealing with in our day-to-day work. There is often not enough time to step back from that work, look around, and see what others are dealing with. Are these universal challenges? How have others dealt with them? What do people see as a temporary phenomenon vs. a first step toward a new future. And what will that future look like?

I feel like this year’s SHSMD Connections conference was full of forward-thinking healthcare professionals who understand that the nature of the path we’re following is changing significantly, and that we need to ensure we’re being an active part of that change. A few years ago, when SHSMD had Futurist Ian Morrison speak as a keynote, I think much of what he spoke about was a surprise to those in the audience. Some left disbelieving, some left skeptical, still others left concerned. A few years later, it feels like the energy and the response to the changing landscape of healthcare has become positive and filled with momentum.

I have taken that positivity and momentum back with me to the office, as I’m sure so many of you have. In my conversations since the conference, these seem to be the key takeaways that are spurring us into action:

  • Learning from Cupcakes. Johnny Cupcakes, that is. I loved this opening keynote. I loved it because it not only had a good energy and thus served as a great takeoff for the conference, but because it truly challenged us in the audience to take a step back and think creatively. Often when you have a keynote like this, it’s too easy for us as attendees to say, “Well, you can’t do that in healthcare” or “That’s not really relevant to me—I’m not going to start up these little businesses.” But I think it’s really interesting that this year, I heard a lot less of that than in the past. Instead, I heard attendees talking about how this keynote gave them an idea for how to approach a specific challenge or issue their organization is facing. Johnny may not have given them a specific example to follow for healthcare, but it seemed that many left inspired and ready to tackle their issues with a new, fresh approach. I think that’s crucial—we can’t continue to use our industry as an excuse for not meeting consumers where they live.
  • Digital is the new front door. I touched on this in my presentation with Christine Gallery of Emerson Hospital as we discussed the strategy behind our overhaul of Emerson’s digital assets. In traditional healthcare marketing, we do a good job of talking about ourselves, but we need to do a better job of anticipating and delivering on healthcare consumers’ expectations. Our presentation was by no means the only one to deliver this message, either. Again, and again, we heard how important the digital presence is, and how it needs to be tailored to the consumer and provide them with a good experience. For us, the first steps toward achieving that goal were (a) building out robust digital personas and (2) developing a Digital Customer Interaction Strategy (DCIS), complete with roadmap.
  • Being a part of the disruption. At this point, “disruption” in healthcare is almost old hat. It’s been occurring for years, and we continue to see it play out in the news every day—announcements from Amazon, CVS, Apple, etc. about new and disruptive approaches to healthcare delivery. What *has* changed in the past few years, though, is the reaction among hospitals and systems toward disruption. Whether through partnerships, or through internal ownership, more and more I am seeing hospitals and health systems begin to take charge of their own disruption or become an active participant in it. Offering telehealth, or offering their own physician reviews and ratings online, booking appointments online—these are small examples of how we’re beginning to address consumerism in tangible ways.
  • Not B2C or B2B, but H2H—Human to Human. So simple, but from the opening keynote with Johnny Cupcakes, through the breakout sessions that discussed getting past the marketing and thinking of the people we’re interacting with, to the final keynote with Liz Jazwiec about accountability and providing leadership through challenging times, all of SHSMD Connections 2018 reminded us that, at the end of the day, we are all people. Let’s do the best we can.

At SilverTech, when we have meetings, we talk about always pretending the end consumer is there sitting at the table. We are there to serve them. To me, it was inspiring to think that 1,700+ healthcare professionals all left Seattle motivated to do the best work we can do. Thinking of all the ways this group will touch the lives of others, I have no doubt the positive impact will be felt by thousands over the course of the next year and beyond.