Although I’ve been following the Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) for years, I hadn’t attended one of their associated conferences organized by health tech journalists and influencers Colin Hung and John Lynn of the Healthcare Scene media outlet. Through its health IT content, social channels, career resources and the HITMC conference, HealthcareScene.com offers marketing and PR professionals opportunities to help health IT companies and healthcare organizations stand out amidst all the noise of the industry. Those marketing to hospital executives, doctors, practice managers, patients, or other healthcare professionals come to HITMC.
But this was the year. Like everyone else, I wanted to get back to an in-person event; in particular, I wanted to connect with people in my health tech PR and marketing channels. And I was excited that Colin and John accepted Look Left’s session on optimizing content to grow organic traffic.
From the minute I stepped into the spacious Meditech building, it was clear that everyone in attendance was eager to acquaint and reacquaint, learn, connect and come away with new information.
Here are a few takeaways from my first in-person conference in more than two years.
Networking and learning made easy
I loved that the show was up close, personal and manageable. There were two breakout sessions per time slot—and I was admittedly suffering from my usual case of FOMO—but I mapped out the sessions I wanted to attend, then reviewed the archived decks for others after the show. And there was ample time to chat and introduce myself between sessions and during breaks and lunch. The 2 ½ days flew by. More than 15 sessions covered various topics, including:
- Creating strategies to help align PR and marketing
- Setting up a Twitter campaign
- Implementing data-driven marketing
- Developing a content marketing plan
Each session hit essential points about the marketing function, and some went deep into the benefits of using a specific technology.
Deep-dive on news revealed interesting trends
One of the most interesting presentations—especially for media relations pros— was Colin’s “HITMC by the Numbers.” The discussion featured findings from a two-month audit of healthcare-related news stories. Here were some of the findings:
- COVID coverage has reached a new low.
- The number of stories featuring EHRs, revenue cycle management and telehealth are holding steady.
- Disease- and condition-focused coverage is increasing.
- Health tech terms on the rise include “patient experience,” “care at home,” “health equity,” “social determinants of health” and “remote patient monitoring.”
This kind of information helps health tech companies make more informed decisions as they develop marketing and PR plans. Understanding the terms and topics that will resonate the most with the media—and help companies with their own marketing and keyword strategies—is invaluable.
Important insights from the media
The show also featured a press and media panel, where journalists from the print and broadcast outlets offered their thoughts on topics like embargoed press releases (advice: use them sparingly) and who still picks up the phone. They all echoed tenets that any media relations person should be aware of, but still bear repeating. An important one is to provide a quality story relevant to the reporter’s beat and the outlet’s audience. Putting in the work on the front end to prep a good story and find the right journalists and outlets gets the best results.
Health tech stories need to embrace the human element
Perhaps the most important theme shared at the conference was this: Companies have to infuse the human element into their stories, which can be challenging for B2B companies. Healthcare futurist and founder of the healthcare social media community #HITsm Erica Olenski Johansen shared her professional and personal healthcare journey, and it was an extremely impactful presentation.
Not long after she was diagnosed with autoimmune conditions, Erica’s 5-month-old baby went through a 14-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor. Erica emphasized the struggle her family faced caring for her baby without the proper tools or information needed to navigate care coordination successfully. Terms that were part of her vernacular as a marketing and content strategist — like "patient experience," "data ownership" and "social determinants of health" — became personal. So did the “value of the patient experience.” In heroic form, Erica asked, “Where do we go from here as an industry, as patients as caregivers, and as healthcare communicators and marketers?”
For more than 20 years, I have worked in health tech PR with a variety of companies that made an impact in different parts of the healthcare industry. We get caught up in the bits, bytes and bots of our day-to-day jobs. Sure, we want to align with sales, track metrics and count social followers. All of that is necessary to keep businesses thriving. But after hearing Erica speak, I was even more convinced that we all have a role in helping those closest to patients provide the best care possible. We must advocate for authentic, human connection because, when all is said and done, we’re all patients.
A trade show can be a whirlwind of activity. But as the saying goes, “You get out of something what you put into it.” I came away from HITMC having connected with people and received a healthy dose of education and inspiration.