What I’ll remember about SHSMD 2016. And, what I don’t want to forget.

Let’s start with the memories. SHSMD 2016 kicked off on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Opening keynoter, veteran White House correspondent Ann Compton, gave a gripping account of her experience as the pool reporter traveling with President Bush on Air Force One after the attacks. Her firsthand experience on the anniversary was chilling and certainly something I won’t forget.

The keynote kicked off a great weekend in Chicago that for me included the best conference food ever at Eataly, sunrise walks along the Chicago riverfront, getting lost in the exhibit hall, great client dinners and drinks on a rooftop bar. Along with conference sessions packed with insights and trends that I don’t want to forget as our teams shape marketing and communications for our healthcare clients.

Among the many trends covered, four stood out:

Recognizing the increased impact of consumerism on health systems,
Shifting processes and approaches built around the old fee-for-service model to building programs around ACOs and ICNs.
Embracing the potential of technology in all aspects of healthcare
Preparing adequately for bigger, more complex crisis scenarios that touch health systems

Consumers are demanding more. One speaker noted that by 2025, 75% of adults will be in a high deductible health plan, meaning patients will be directly paying for much of their care. But we don’t have to wait for 2025. Consumers are already getting more involved in their healthcare. We heard from Dr. Roni Zeiger, Google’s former Chief Health Strategist. He emphasized the importance of engaging patients the way they’re engaged by brands today. Everything is personalized. That is what consumers expect. Personalization. Know them and know them every time you connect with them. This demand for personalization in healthcare requires each of us to evaluate our organizational structure, our communication strategies and the channels we use for our audiences to ensure we deliver – each time.  

Keeping up with changing delivery models. With healthcare delivery shifting to fee for value, accountable care organizations, medical homes and integrated care networks, there’s a need for marketing and strategy professionals to make a corresponding shift in our approaches and organizations. For example, marketing effectiveness should consider patient lifetime value and share of healthcare wallet as well as traditional measurements like appointments and referrals. And, the physician liaison role has the potential to be different, ideally more strategic, in the new models. 

Embracing what’s next in technology. Technology has tremendous impact on healthcare -- improving outcomes, changing the ways we provide care and enabling better application of data. Even with tremendous progress, there’s more value to be had from technology. Keynoter Roni Ziegler observed that much of our focus in recent years has been on the “technology that we have to use versus the technology we can use” to truly enhance patient care and access. Think about the emphasis on implementing EHR systems over the past few years in contrast to today’s discussions on things like telehealth, wearables and nanotechnology.

Getting ready for more complex crises. There was a panel at SHSMD that included hospital representatives who faced the Orlando night club shooting, the shooting of the on-air reporter and cameraman in Virginia and the terrorist shooting in San Bernardino. As healthcare communicators, if anything is evident these days, it is we must prepare for the unknown. The crisis we face can take any form, which these panelists admitted. And it’s often the most unexpected event. But, as communicators, it’s our job to control what we can. What we can control in a crisis situation is preparation and practice. Steps we heard from this panel included: conduct a reputation risk assessment, create a crisis communications plan and keep it updated and train your team. The crisis will happen. It won’t be what you expect. But you can get ahead of it now. Get started.