Earlier this month, I was in Las Vegas for the #HLTH22 conference at the Venetian Expo. Having been at the same venue last year for HIMSS 2021, I was feeling underwhelmed heading into a conference with so much walking and so many lines. But, much to my surprise, the entire vibe was different. HLTH was my eighth (yes 8!) conference this year and I have to say that I ended on a high note for the year. I believe that HLTH is working hard to ensure they deliver a new conference experience that gets people excited.
Here are my 3 takeaways from this week at HLTH:
Mental Health Matters. A Lot.
One of the opening sessions on Monday was with the CEO and Chief Purpose Officer at Calm, and was titled: The Body. The Mind. The Future of Whole Health. During their time, David Ko and Jay Shetty shared some statistics on mental health in the US, as well as how much of a role our mobile devices play in our stress levels. Yet, they weren’t proposing we ask the unachievable, that people put down their phones. They were suggesting that the alternative solution is actually right next to the problem: technology is a big part of the solution. Health focused technology and apps that can remind people to a break. Take a breath. Make time for their mental health. Jay Shetty said “The surgeon general told me recently that mental health is a national priority. But we have to all do it together – a collaboration for a happier, healthier nation.”
This sentiment was stressed throughout the HTLH exhibit floor, most prominently with the introduction of Well by hlth. This was an “inaugural ‘event within an event’ for consumer health and wellness brands focusing on wearables, fitness, mental wellness/mindfulness, metabolic health and cardio metabolic disease, nutrition, longevity, sexual health, sleep health, psychedelics, and food innovation.” (hlth.com) Calm introduced their “Calm for business” platform this week and many vendors joined them in offering employers ways to tackle a major obstacle to a healthy work culture. Technology that serves as a new form of “employee benefits” and a way to have more resilient, happier and healthier staff members.
In addition to vendors focused on whole health, there were several stations throughout the exhibit hall encouraging rest and mental breaks. A large globe hung in the very center of the space, where people could lounge on beanbags away from the harsh glare of fluorescent lighting. Once you were done resting under the globe, you step right outside to play classic arcade games like air hockey and skee-ball. Or, step into the Puppy Park and pet a dog for a few minutes. The Zen Lounge invited you to “Come in and Chillax” right next to oxygen bar and several comfy couches. If creativity is your stress relief, you could grab a marker and “Color Me Stress Free” on a large adult coloring page with the HLTH logo.
Collaboration is Critical for Change
There isn’t just one approach to fix the challenges that face the healthcare industry in the US, and there isn’t just one vendor who can solve everything. A message that resonated with me this week was that collaboration across the industry is going to be critical as we begin to make the big changes needed to ensure everyone has access to affordable care – for their whole health. Let’s allow consumer business who have created technologies to make things easier for their customers, share those technologies with payors and providers to make life easier for patients. Let’s make it easier to push big changes through the healthcare system and cut through unnecessary red tape so that we can provide better care to patients, faster.
In the session titled “Removing the Filter from the Business of Healthcare”, the Executive VP of Health & Wellness for Walmart and President and CEO at SCAN Health Plan had a candid conversation about the pressing topics impacting the future of healthcare. They started their discussion around the staffing challenges facing the industry and how 300,000 people left the medical field this year, 120,000 of them being physicians. “There are significantly more medical conditions now, than when those doctors trained”, Dr. Cheryl Pegus shared. Re-hiring alone is not going to solve the problem; emerging care models are going to have to fill in the gaps. Dr. Pegus continued, “Walmart is sometimes the only option in medically underserved areas. 17 million people visit Walmart in these areas, every day”. She went on to share that Walmart can meet these patients there, in a place they can access, with the care they so desperately need. She went on to say “Healthcare is broken. We should stop telling people to stay out of the industry. We all need to come to the table and fix this problem together. The goal is to make healthcare better than it is today. Think about patients first. Profits second. Be more about service to people and service to communities, than padding the bottom line.”
I want to also call out the focus on women in healthcare and women’s health this week. I learned a new term this week: “Femtech”, investing in the health of women. I also learned a shocking statistic that we spend the most money on prenatal health care in the US, but our mothers and babies have some of the worst outcomes of any developed nation. I greatly appreciate how much of a focus HLTH gave to women this week, and I hope that many cutting-edge organizations were able to connect and collaborate in ways that will drive significant change in this area.
An Exceptional Experience Encourages Attendance
As I mentioned before, I went to eight conferences this year. I was in Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas and Denver. All of these cities offer a great venue to hold a conference and an opportunity to enjoy all that the city has to offer. But the reality is that you are often stuck in the conference center for days, eating grab & go sandwiches and any candy you can find being handed out by vendors. HLTH did it a little differently. Not only did they provide food for breakfast, lunch, and snack times, but it was really good food, with lots of different options depending on your diet, and your time available to eat. The best part was that it was all available in the exhibit hall where you already were for every single session, meeting, and vendor visit. You didn’t have to leave to navigate unknown conference rooms or battle Vegas hotel lines for a quick lunch.
Vegas is a city for nightlife, and HLTH made sure to offer the true experience. All three days of the conference included evening events at nightclubs, with fun entertainment, free drinks, and more food. The week culminated in a private concert by Ludacris at Drai’s nightclub. After spending 10-12 hours in an exhibit hall, it was nice to have another way to see old friends, meet up with clients and network with potential partners, that you didn’t have to plan for. Food and fun may not be on the top of the list for everyone attending a conference, but for someone who goes to several each year, the added experience makes me more likely that I would want to come back again. Conferences seemed to be falling off of many organizations marketing plans prior to COVID, but the need for in person connection post-pandemic has given them a surge this year. Every conference organization is looking for ways to keep vendors coming back and attendee numbers high. Creating that exceptional experience that delivers happier participants is going to be key next year to drawing big crowds and I look forward to seeing how things continue to change.
Watch the video below for a first-hand look inside HLTH 2022 in Las Vegas!
About the Author:
Dessiree Paoli is the director of product marketing at Interlace Health, a company that transforms workflows by providing clinicians and patients with digital healthcare solutions. She has more than 20 years of experience in driving strategic marketing initiatives, leading teams, and developing integrated campaigns, and she has worked in healthcare for more than 14 years.