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Have a Healthcare Play? Consider Going to HIMSS 2012

by Mercedes Carrasco

Schwartz MSL’s tech clients often ask us if attending HIMSS is worth their time and investment. These technology vendors might have a significant play in the healthcare vertical, but aren’t delivering pure-play HCIT products like EMRs, clinical decision support tools or healthcare billing platforms. Although HIMSS is the largest and most well-attended show dedicated to HCIT, the answer for general tech companies isn’t so clear cut.

When discussing with clients the decision to attend or plan a larger presence through exhibiting or sponsorship at HIMSS, we pose the following questions:

What do you want to get out of the conference? In the past, even some of the largest HCIT vendors have commented that lead generation at previous HIMSS events has been moderate. Though the event attracts technology buying decision makers, the show is ‘noisy’ with hundreds of companies competing for booth traffic and general awareness. Typically, attendees are looking for specific HCIT solutions and may not yet be thinking about technology investments they should make to support a HCIT deployment.

Where HIMSS may not always deliver in leads, it does provide a fertile environment for vendor networking. Dozens of companies announce partnerships and plant seeds for many more. A trip to Vegas may be a cost-effective way for your company to get some face time with bigger HCIT players.

One constant at HIMSS is the strong media presence. For companies that are new to the healthcare industry, there is a good opportunity to schedule introductory briefings with editors and analysts, to educate them on how your technology fits into the HCIT landscape. As with any media outreach, they will be most interested in news, hearing about your company’s overarching strategy and roadmap, and customers.

How advanced is your healthcare messaging? The healthcare industry is experiencing dramatic changes in terms of payment and care delivery models. HCIT will play a big role in supporting new models, such as pay-for-performance and ACO. The industry recognizes a huge potential for support technology – particularly storage and security components that will be critical as more healthcare organizations digitize their records while working to comply with regulations, and IT consulting and integration to optimize IT investments and manage complex IT networks. Technology companies that want to succeed in the healthcare vertical must clearly articulate and illustrate their value proposition for their product and services within the healthcare market and be prepared to relay those messages to many audiences at the show, namely vendors, analysts, media and attendees. Schwartz MSL leverages our healthcare experience to help clients craft healthcare-specific messaging.

Can you tell a customer story?
One of the best ways to advance your healthcare-specific messaging is to use a healthcare customer. Inviting a customer to join you at HIMSS – whether at your booth or on the show floor – is a great draw for media. Reporters and editors want to hear firsthand how your customers use your technology to meet their needs.

Here is a strategy that worked well for Schwartz MSL client Circadence, a company that provides WAN (Wide Area Network) and network optimization solutions, at HIMSS 2011. Although they didn’t have a customer on hand, Circadence executives met with key reporters, including Jim Knaub at Radiology Today, and shared the experience of a customer, Imaging Associates of North Mississippi Magnolia (IANMM), that uses Circadence MVO to ensure rapid, reliable and secure delivery of large image transfers. The executives recounted the customer’s process from evaluation through implementation while communicating clear, quantitative ROI. The result: a follow-up conversation between the customer and editor after the show, which became a cover story. To view that story, visit Radiology Today. Since the story ran, Circadence has expanded its presence in healthcare, providing WAN and network optimization for images, electronic health records and now the ability to access critical healthcare information on any mobile device.

After reviewing these questions, consider dipping your toe in the HIMSS pool by sending a few executives as attendees. Investment in attendee passes is much less expensive than sponsoring a booth, plus it gives executives the time to walk the show floor, and network with other vendors, potential partners and the media. Register before January 23 for the standard rate. And while you’re there, take advantage of Las Vegas in February and dip another toe in the pool at Venetian’s Tao Beach.

Schwartz MSL has had a long-standing presence at HIMSS and will have HCIT practice group members at the 2012 show. We’re less than eight weeks away, but there’s still time to plan and make a significant impact.  Schwartz MSL created a Road to HIMSS 2012 Planning Guide to help you navigate the PR and marketing opportunities at the show. Download the guide for free here.

For further advice or information on how Schwartz MSL can partner with you, please contact Dave Close or Doug Russell in our Boston office at 781-684-0770, or Shannon Murphy in our San Francisco office at 415-512-0770, or send an email to healthcareIT@schwartzmsl.com.

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