Although not an official theme for the 2017 Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD17), it was difficult not to characterize Day 1 of the event as one in which attendees were encouraged to “think differently” about healthcare and healthcare marketing.
Right from the start, SHSMD17 organizers challenged the norm by holding a cocktail reception BEFORE the opening session. This unconventional approach was utterly brilliant given what they had in store for attendees in the the conference kick-off.
To get things started, local a cappella group, reVoiced, serenaded the audience with an amazing rendition of the National Anthem. They quickly followed with an impressive vocal performance that was reminiscent of an opening number from ‘Glee’. It was a pleasant departure from standard conference fare.
Opening keynote speaker, Ceci Connolly, President and CEO at the Alliance of Community Health Plans, later took the stage and gave a thought-provoking 60 minute presentation that challenged preconceived notions of healthcare’s biggest challenges. From high-deductible plans to rising drug prices to payer consolidation, Connolly repeatedly offered new perspectives and ways to re-frame issues. She ended by asking the audience to “think differently about healthcare” and suggest we take the lessons learned from seat belt safety initiatives and apply them to healthcare.
Following the keynote, attendees were treated to yet another reception, this time in the SHSMD17 exhibit hall. A quick tour of the hall yielded a pleasant surprise – mixed in with the usual booths from marketing agencies and consulting service companies, were several technology vendors. Unlike prior years, there were a number of marketing automation providers, content management platforms and patient analytic engines.
Also noticeable was the diversity in booth messaging. There were pop-up banners everywhere extolling the benefits of expanding beyond healthcare marketing’s traditional roots. You could almost see the words “marketing as a strategic partner” floating above the LED-powered booth halos.
For me the clearest evidence of “thinking different” came in the form of a simple SHSMD17 sign – one that I felt elegantly demonstrated that healthcare marketers are approaching things from the right perspective – that of consumers and patients. It also showed that marketers have a sense of humor.