In September, a record-setting 2,000+ healthcare marketers and strategists traveled from across the country to SHSMD Connections, the annual conference hosted by the Society for Health Care Strategy and Market Development. The four-day event – held in Nashville this year – is uniquely valuable for multiple reasons.

First, unlike strictly “digital” or “PR” conferences, the content presented at SHSMD covers a broad range of healthcare strategy professions: marketing, communications, planning, and business development. As a result, the concurrent sessions that occur each day are a treasure trove of “what’s working” in healthcare; they provide attendees ample opportunity to see an issue from multiple disciplines’ perspectives and give them exposure to the full continuum of leading marketing and communications practices.

Second, the content presented at the conference is also aimed at all skill levels, from those just beginning to learn about the field at the entry level, to insights at the most senior level. In all cases, the ability to make peer-to-peer and attendee-to-speaker connections is unbeatable.

Finally, SHSMD Connections embraces the value outside consultants bring to organizations. No organization can do it alone, and visiting the Exhibition Hall and hearing consultants co-present with their clients is a great way to meet and hear from companies that support healthcare providers in their journeys.

Constant Growth is a Must

At this year’s SHSMD conference, among a broad range of content, experts, and insights, one topic particularly stood out to me: personal professional development. For instance, Lisa Henry (Mary Washington Healthcare) and Michael Joyce (Kaiser Permanente)’s session emphasized how important it is to build an expectation of rapid growth among team members – not just to master skills, but to stay ahead of the curve in the healthcare field. This is powerful advice, as the healthcare category demands a high degree of domain knowledge in addition to core job skills.

But the importance of growth doesn’t just apply to individuals – it’s also crucial to organizations on the whole. This was demonstrated in the Thought Leader Forum, where Maria Royce from WellSpan Health spoke about the challenge of maintaining market relevance in the face of disruption, and what tools, capabilities, and capacities are needed to stay relevant.

The link between these two sessions is the notion of constant improvement – there’s just no such thing as coasting in the healthcare field. Consultants are pushing health systems, and health systems are stretching their partners’ boundaries; if you’re continuously not expanding your capabilities or horizons, you’ll quickly get left behind.

But Growth Without Fulfillment is Meaningless

However, SHSMD 2019 also made it clear that constant improvement must also be balanced with personal fulfillment and a careful consideration of work’s role – a topic covered in two of the conference’s Keynote sessions. Each day, we’re all going 100 mph, running from project to project, meeting to meeting, email to text exchange to social media post. Work can eat us alive if we don’t slow down, stop, think, and prioritize what matters most to us.

SPM is passionate about helping our clients innovate – that’s why prioritizing growth and fulfillment is such a salient idea to us. To provide the greatest value, we need to make time to connect our work to both the agency and our clients’ personal and professional purpose. Walking in each other’s proverbial shoes is a key component to great ideas, great solutions, and great partnerships.

Overall, these insights fit perfectly with the advice Pulitzer Prize winning-author and historian Jon Meacham shared during his SHSMD 2019 Keynote presentation: “Be curious. Be humble. Be empathetic.”

Curiosity is all about having a restless mind and expanding upon what you already know – in other words, seeking constant growth, evolution, and improvement in the context of healthcare’s ever-changing landscape. Being humble goes hand in hand with curiosity; you must be honest about what you need to learn, as we all need to learn more. Empathy is crucial – as healthcare marketers, we are people working together to make the world better. If we’re going to really get anywhere, we need to understand why our partners, our clients, and our customers feel what they feel. These are simple yet powerful guidelines that we keep top of mind at SPM as we partner with clients to help them make an impact.

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Dan Miers

Chief Strategy Officer at SPM Marketing & Communications
Dan anticipates “what’s next” in our complex industry and keeps SPM on the leading edge of healthcare policy and strategy. A valuable resource to all SPM clients, his strategic insights focus how we understand and apply industry trends to client issues. With 20 years of experience, Dan has two master’s degrees in healthcare administration and finance, worked in business development at an academic medical center, and launched a healthcare technology company. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and an active member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).
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