Healthcare IT marketers invest in patient input—with awesome returns

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MARCH 2017

I’ve been to HIMSS every year since 2012, and each one had its moments that stick with me to this day.

Funny, none of those standout memories involve swag.

Don’t get me wrong—I love me some swag. It’s always fun to share something silly or clever with my kids or coworkers. (Can you say cowbell?) But swag just doesn’t hit me on an emotional level.

You know what does hit me on an emotional level? Real stories and real reactions from real patients. Patients are why healthcare (and healthcare IT) exists in the first place, right? But until recently, the healthcare IT companies who exhibit at HIMSS didn’t do much to showcase the patient journey.

That’s why I’ve been happy to see more HIMSS exhibitors making the investment to actually bring patient influencers to the conference. It sure beats more pens, trinkets and t-shirts.

“Everyone who met her had a smile on their face”

Amanda1

Amanda Greene

For HIMSS ’17, Lenovo Health covered travel expenses for Amanda Greene, well-known to thousands of social followers as the “LA Lupus Lady.” Greene, who’s lived with Lupus (and other autoimmune conditions) for decades, openly shares her journey as a blogger, social media correspondent and public speaker.

[Disclosure: Lenovo Health is a StudioNorth client.]

“Amanda is a champion for people who would like to share their stories but don’t have the following,” says Lenovo Social Media Marketing Manager Alena Van Dalen. “She only talks about things that are true to her experience as a patient.”

According to Van Dalen, having a patient advocate at a trade show gave her team invaluable first-hand feedback from a patient whose life is directly impacted by their offerings.

Alena_LinkedIn

Alena Van Dalen

“We have a new patient ID solution called AIMe, a single-source patient safety identifier that makes records transfer smoother,” says Van Dalen. “After Amanda saw a demo, she was so excited she gave our rep a hug. She said it was a solution that would change her care and her life. Without a patient you would never get that kind of real-time feedback.”

How does a healthcare marketing team calculate the value of having a patient influencer like Amanda Greene at their booth?

Van Dalen says, “As a social media manager, I’m looking at metrics like reach and likes, and the credibility is stronger when the message comes from somebody so active in the healthcare space. But the additional coverage and social media impressions are almost a bonus compared to the experience of having someone like Amanda attend the show. She’s so passionate. Everyone in our booth who met her had a smile on their face.”

The #BetterThanTShirts” movement

Influencers like Mandi Bishop have been promoting patient presence at trade shows for several years. Part of her argument is basic economics—influencer marketing has demonstrated a 650% return on investment, far better than any swag I can think of.

Mandi Bishop

Mandi Bishop

But her argument really hits home with me on a deeper level. We all talk about technology being developed with the patient in mind, but how do we know if we don’t include patients in the development process? Too many healthcare IT companies leave patients out of the process until products are almost ready for market.

Bishop is helping open executives’ eyes.

At HIMSS 2016, she “spoke with VPs from 4 different companies who jotted down notes on including patients from their advisory council in their conference planning for next year.”

This year, Bishop spearheaded the #BetterThanTShirts movement, asking vendors who usually invest in conference swag, Why wouldn’t you redirect some of those merchandising dollars to create opportunities for meaningful engagements with healthcare’s ultimate constituency: the patients?”

Bishop joined the board of the Society of Participatory Medicine, which administers a travel fund for e-patients to attend, speak, and cover events. She writes, “We have been, and will continue to be, working with conference organizers to address registration fees and accessibility constraints—but getting patients to the party is fully half the battle.”

Lenovo’s Van Dalen thinks future HIMSS Conferences and other shows will see larger numbers of patients. “It’s so important to have patients there to hear they have experts fighting for them. Patients should have their own meetups and sessions.”

When they do, I’ll be there!

HERE’S A TO DO: Vendors (and those who work with vendors)—when you start planning for HIMSS18, set aside some of your budget to contribute to the Patient Scholarship Fund. You’ll be glad you did.

Stacy Goebel

Stacy Goebel

Social Media Manager

You know how excited Buddy the Elf gets about Santa? That's how Social Media Manager Stacy Goebel feels about new ideas. Her favorite is when she gets to think out of the box to build integrated marketing strategies for clients. She also favorites singing and raising four creative kids.

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