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Nov 03

You can read my general thoughts on the conference in Part I, here. Below I share some of the feedback and the areas for improvement.

Hot Coffee and Everybody Learned Something

Overall I’ve been delighted with the feedback. Many, many people have stated that it was the single best conference they have ever attended. In the evaluations thus far, overall satisfaction is a 4.56 on a 5 point scale. 100% of all respondents say they learned one or more things they can apply back on their job and 86% met one or more new people who will be helpful in their career.

The major things I was worrying about - WiFi, hot coffee, speakers showing up, microphones - all turned out fine. The problems noted via Twitter and in the evaluations included the room being too cold, no soda during coffee breaks and no coffee during lunch breaks, crowded 1:1 coaching sessions and a couple of obnoxious people in the audience.

Twitter Table or Trouble Table?

trouble_tableThe thing that received the most negative feedback was actually the Twitter tables. Many people approached me or commented in their evaluations that they found the Twitterers to be rude, unprofessional and disruptive. A few people suggested that they won’t come back if the Twitters come back. That sure surprised me, and I’m sure this feedback will surprise them.  I’m not sure if there was just a cultural gap manifesting itself (bringing Baptists and Catholics together to hear a common sermon), or if indeed what some might consider to be open and honest feedback (with a little dose of fun) is actually disruptive to the in-person live forum. I personally like honest, immediate feedback and like interaction with a lively crowd - but would hate to turn off a segment of people we’re trying to actually bring into the fold.

Can’t Please Everybody

There was a variety of opinions expressed in the qualitative feedback:

  • Many raved about the iPod giveaway and talked about how they’ll explore mobile health apps; a few said it was an unprofessional violation of corporate gift policies
  • Some asked for more Q&A time for the speakers; others asked for less Q&A time
  • Some asked for more main stage speakers instead of the breakout SIGs; others suggested replacing ½ the speakers with an unconference format
  • Most applauded the applied, tactical focus of the case studies; some complained the information was too basic and we need more big ideas

What I Would Do Different

There is plenty I’d do differently:

  • The 1:1 coaching sessions were an experiment that I’d do again, but the spontaneous “show up and get coached” approach meant we didn’t have enough coaches for some topics and most sessions evolved into longer, small-group formats. We need to find some way for people to sign-up, stay within 5-10 minutes, and get more coaches for the hot topics.
  • We need to ask for more information during registration so we can accommodate things like special dietary needs, t-shirt sizes, topics of interest, etc.
  • The “social spark minutes” were designed as table group ice breakers but clearly didn’t work. In fact we cut them from day 2 entirely. Many people chose to sit with people they already know, and others seemed disinterested in the exercise. Just need to find other ways to facilitate new relationships, perhaps with an opt-in online social network.
  • Still struggling with the right “format mix.” Conferences these days run from completely self-organizing unconferences to speeches with no Q&A (think TED). We are more TED-like than unconference but perhaps we should have added an unconference format in one of the afternoons.
  • We gave away many thousands of dollars worth of scholarships to the event but we should have had some other charitable contribution or charitable impact as well and I should note that Joe Shields from Pfizer had encouraged this from the start

I’m going to take a couple of months to keep thinking about all this and to figure out if we can do it again in 2010, so if you have additional ideas on how to take our strong start to the next level please let me know.

Thanks to all for your participation and input.

- Kevin

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Nov 03

goetzOne week ago the inaugural e-Patient Connections conference came to an end, and I must say I’m still decompressing and trying to make sense of it all. Many have done an excellent job summarizing the event and highlighting special sessions. To get content summaries you can:

and definitely read these blog posts Eric Brody, Steve Woodruff, Kerri Sparling, Ellen Hoenig Carlson, BioJobBlog, E-Patient Dave deBronkart.

The highlight for me was the Pecha Kucha session from Dr. Val Jones. Her “Tale of Two e-Patients,” is a great reminder that there is a right way to be empowered and engaged and a wrong way. I was glad I wasn’t moderating that session because I was choked up by the end of her 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Being an e-patient is about being actively engaged yourself; it doesn’t diminish the role or value of your physician.

My only real disappointment was the fact that I started losing my voice the day before the conference even began. I tried my best to mingle and chat Sunday and Monday nights, but each night I had to retreat early to the comfort of hot honey water. I knew having a voice was the most important thing, but felt like a rude host and wanted to spend time with my new friends.

Overall I think we accomplished our goal, which (again) was to bring together health communicators from different industries to compare and contrast the best ways to connect with empowered, digital patients. The term “connection” has a double meaning - connect with patients, but also connect with each other. What delighted me the most was the unpredictable ways connections were manifesting themselves at the conference. I learned from dozens and dozens of speakers and attendees. Some of my favorite moments:

debronkartConnections…

“e-Patient Dave deBronkart” publicly thanks Novartis for saving his life.

Yes, the personification of the e-patient movement teaches us that you can be pro-patient without being anti-pharma.

Connections…

From patient blogger Diane Bayer, “…after my talk I sat down in the back and this fellow with a pharma company…he told me he was really amazed by my talk because he has a six year old son who has been diagnosed with autism.  Then he proceeded to show me the pictures of his son…and my god…he looked just like my son!  This person had come for business reasons but then we connected in a very human way. ”

Yes, we are all caregivers, we are all patients; as e-Patient Dave boomed, “Your day will come!”

Connections…

Susannah Fox, from Pew Internet and Mark Bard, from Manhattan Research sharing perspectives on e-patient trends and publicly acknowledging that it’s great to be presenting together.

Yes, commercial and non-profit research can both shed light on the changes around us.

Connections…

There were several tweets and comments about what a great guy Paul Loebach is and how he offers a great face to the FDA. In the breakout sessions he offered some eye opening insights into why the FDA does and doesn’t do certain things.

Yes, even the FDA and pharma folks can connect and gain a better understanding of each other.

Connections…

Jim Currie from “N’Awlins” shouted to me as he was leaving the hotel, “Kevin, my goal is to go back and implement something that is worthy enough to get me invited back to present a case study at next year’s conference.”

Yes, we can inspire and learn from each other.

The challenge of producing a 2-day conference is nothing compared with the challenge of keeping the community alive beyond the walls of the Bellevue. Hopefully we’ve sparked something that will continue to grow and continue to benefit the patients and caregivers who we ultimately serve.

- Kevin

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