HITMC 2019 Takeaways from Matter Health

By Ryan Lilly

For the third year in a row I was lucky to attend the annual Health IT Marketing and PR Conference or HITMC (pronounced hit-mick). While each conference has been valuable and informative, this year held special meaning for me personally for a few reasons, not the least of which was the location, which just so happened to be in Matter HQ’s backyard of Boston.

Not only did we celebrate our new dedicated healthcare brand, Matter Health, I was lucky enough to present to and collaborate with some of the most passionate and talented communications professionals in the industry. My presentation “Breaking Down Silos: What’s the Right Strategic Mix of Earned, Paid, SEO, and Social?” focused on lessons learned executing a fully integrated program for our client, Myomo, which develops robotic braces for people with limb paralysis. Matter Health also sponsored the conference’s first social networking event, which quickly evolved into Matter Health’s official “launch party.” The part was very well attended and the setting at Lucky’s Lounge in Boston’s bustling Seaport district was the perfect place to cement existing relationships, develop new ones and celebrate our continuing commitment to healthcare.

For those unfamiliar, HITMC is an annual conference organized by one of the most successful and influential bloggers in the space, John Lynn, and his partner in crime, Colin Hung. The conference brings together some of the best and brightest from healthcare marketing and PR, both in-house and agency side. This year’s conference was punctuated by a smattering of Matter Health staff and many of our Boston-area colleagues, friendlies and clients.

Here are highlights from my experience at HITMC19 that I hope those in healthcare and healthcare communications find relevant and thought provoking.

Patients reign supreme

The time has come to finally put the patient first. To anyone outside of healthcare, you may be asking yourself why this is just now happening? While there have always been healthcare professionals who prioritize patients, the sad reality is that so many competing priorities have emerged over the years making it difficult, if not impossible, to keep patients at the top of the list where they belong. So, what does this mean for healthcare communicators? Stories need to be told with human perspective and emotional appeal. Patients want to feel like they matter, and they should. Even if you are an EHR or RCM company selling into the C-suite of hospitals and health systems, you should be thinking about the patient and how your solution contributes to better care and a better care experience. It may not always be a direct line to the patients, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t incredibly important.

The power of moments

This year’s keynote featured Dan Heath, a New York Times best-selling author who received a standing ovation after he spoke about meaningful experiences and the power of moments. His message, which I wholeheartedly support, is that moments are really what matters. As humans we are hard wired to problem solve, and I can confirm that this is particularly true in healthcare. What we should do is focus more energy on the positive moments, bolster them and embrace them as communicators. I’ve seen companies and people fall into this trap many times. You spend 80% of your time trying to solve problems for a small audience that is unhappy and end up ignoring those that are happy. Spend more time on the things that are working and the people whoare bought in. It will be easier as communicators to create moments if we are telling stories through the eyes of your “love group.”

Evolve or die

Patients are feeling the cost of care in their wallets, which is causing many to pay closer attention and ask why healthcare gets to function so differently from other industries? Things like price transparency and customer service are no longer options. We enjoy too much convenience in our daily lives to navigate cumbersome technologies and processes, just to access care that is increasingly expensive. This coupled with outside forces like Amazon pushing in, and the writing is on the wall that healthcare organizations across the continuum need to adapt or risk suffering the same fate as: [insert name of any number of Amazon casualties]. The effects of this these tectonic shifts can be felt across the continuum of care, whether a provider, payer or vendor of virtually any kind.

Teamwork makes the dream-work

Truly integrated marketing and communications in healthcare is very much akin to care coordination. It makes sense that patients will achieve better outcomes if they are treated by a care delivery team, which may include their PCP, specialists, pharmacists, care managers, and nurses, that is aligned and working toward a shared goal of improved health. These same principals can be applied to communications and will certainly have a similar impact on the health of a brand. We can no longer let PR people and marketing people and events people and developers, etc. function in silos. There is too much to be gained by aligning on an integrated strategy and team structure to ensure a consistent message and the ideal mix of paid, earned and owned media. This is much of what I discussed during my presentation, and I was unable to find a communicator in the room who disagreed with this hypothesis.


I do understand that none of this advice may seem that profound. However, that doesn’t make it any less valid, impactful or quite frankly necessary. In fact, I would argue that prioritizing patients, focusing on the positives, working together and continuous evolution are perhaps more important than ever for healthcare professionals, whether clinical, operational, finance, admin or, yes, even marketing and communications.

Stay tuned in the weeks and months to come, as we plan to roll out some insights from leaders we connected with at HITMC on key trends in healthcare, including digital therapeutics, patient engagement and interoperability, just to name a few.