Events – Is it time for change?

Last month it was Smart Healthcare, before that it was HC2011 but this month it’s been the NHS Confederation’s time in the conference spotlight

Although I didn’t make it over to NHS Confed this year, I’ve heard many reports that health IT suppliers dominated what is traditionally an event focused on management, policy and politics.

But with the IT suppliers apparently trying to target a different audience, it begs the question of whether they see value in exhibiting at the increasing amount of national or international healthcare IT specific events. Especially as technology, including digital telecommunications is liberating the business processes in healthcare, expanding the possibilities for collaboration across the healthcare enterprise, and accelerating the pace of change in virtually every field.

The organisers of such events clearly think that there is a strong market and with changes to the NHS coupled with the government’s drive for greater use of IT and innovation within healthcare, it’s no wonder why the amount of such events have at least doubled.

But the race is on for at least two organisations to convince suppliers and NHS Delegates that theirs is better and well worth supporting than the other. However, I believe only one of them will be able to claim any Olympian success.
With 2012 fast approaching the healthcare conference organisations are starting to vie for your support. At least two of them intend to hold conferences within a matter of weeks of each other, with the BCS teaming up with Kable (Guardian Group), who formerly ran Smart Healthcare Live. Two weeks later in Birmingham, former BCS partner, Citadel Events are going it alone offering a free conference to NHS Delegates – In4matics.

So the questions must be asked in these austere times, is there a place for these large conferences, can the NHS afford to attend, can suppliers pay the costs of exhibition fees, the resources to man the stand let alone the hotels and other expenses associated with two or three day conferences?

Don’t get me wrong, the exchange of ideas, debate and networking that we see at good quality conferences is great BUT do we need three, four or even five in a year? My preference would be to have one good national/international conference in the UK for the NHS to show off its best and for the supplier industry to respond accordingly.

Many suppliers are moving to webinars with online Q&A where ‘delegates’ can watch either in real-time and participate or download at their convenience and from their own workplace. No travel costs, no hotel costs and certainly no exhibition cost. I recently chaired such an event, which had more than 1400 people registering with very powerful lead generation. So maybe there is a place for more of these types of digital interactions.

So in a time where the NHS is mandated to make massive savings, how then can these multiple events succeed without incurring huge losses and disappointment? Letting the market decide may be one way, or accept that actually low cost/budgeted events using multi-media will have their day.

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