Top 7 Tips for Healthcare Startups at HIMSS12

Guest blog by Jonathan Dreyer of Nuance Communications

2011 was a big year for the healthcare start-up community and as we move swiftly into 2012, that momentum continues to skyrocket. One need look no further than Cake Health, HealthTap and Doximity to see that momentum in action from both a clinical and consumer perspective.

As an active participant in the health IT space, I wanted to take some time to provide insight into the largest health IT show around – HIMSS 2012 (HIMSS12). The show kicks off on February 20 in Las Vegas and, over the years, has grown to embody health IT innovation in action. If you’re attending HIMSS for the first time, consider these tips.

Be clear and concise in what you want and need to get out of HIMSS12 in advance of landing in Vegas. It’s a big show and there’s going to be a lot of distractions, good (cool technology that might not necessarily be 100% applicable in your world but that’s thought provoking nonetheless) and bad (uh, gambling). Stay focused and map out who you want to connect with at the show and, when feasible, reach out ahead of February 20 to see if you can schedule partner, potential customer and/or mentorship meetings before the show kicks-off. Worst case, leverage Twitter to see what those points of contact are talking about so you can potentially communicate with them directly in real-time or, at the very least, stalk them in a friendly way while on site.

2. Before, during and after
Leading up to HIMSS, your best bet is to use social platforms for all their worth. For example, HIMSS has a pretty active LinkedIn page that provides a comprehensive list of folks who will be in attendance and the #HIMSS12 Twitter hashtag is also in full swing. But that’s just step one.

While at the show, look for opportunities to engage with folks in a less formal, more interactive atmosphere like the following:

  • Health IT Exchange Tweet ‘n Meet hosted by @SearchHealthIT and @HITexchange
  • Histalkapalooza hosted by @HIStalk
  • New Media Meetup hosted by
  • HERSS meetup

Step three, following the show, take the time to thank those you met and connect again – you guessed it, via social. Look up points of contact on Twitter and LinkedIn so as to continue to build those relationships coming out of HIMSS12. Trust me, you’re going to meet a ton of people, but stay focused on why you came to the show in the first place. Devote time and energy to forming a mutually beneficial relationship with key individuals that map back to your aforementioned goals. You’ll want (and need) to leverage these contacts in the coming months and beyond, so “water” your new relationships immediately following HIMSS12.

3. Be smart and strategic with social
It’s easy to get completely overwhelmed with social media. Should you be leveraging Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora AND Focus? That’s an easy one – not unless you have an endless supply of resources and time to throw around. Wait, you don’t have that? Me either.

Instead, create a targeted list of influencers – say 10 to 15 – people that you feel can help drive your business forward. These might be core trade media experts, like @GovHIT, or bloggers who’ve made a name for themselves, like @ahier, or maybe socially savvy doctors like @jhalamka (note, not 100% sure he’ll be at HIMSS. Still, he’s undoubtedly a thought leader in the health IT space so engaging with him is worth your time). Whoever they are, the key is to keep the list targeted and the communication personal so as to avoid “machine gun” communications. And look for social events that your key resources may already be participating in like the #HITsm Twitter chat that takes place every Friday at noon CT. Again, it all comes back to identifying who can help drive your mission forward and creating a symbiotic relationship with those resources.

4. Come equipped with insight into the key compliance and regulatory issues and how they play into your company/product
You’ve got to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. Don’t come to HIMSS without complete confidence that you have a solid understanding of the major issues the healthcare industry is dealing with from a regulatory and compliance perspective. Some key topics you should have a handle on are listed below, and don’t forget to have a good grasp on related timelines and/or deadlines:

  • ACOs
  • FDA Mobile Medical App Regulations
  • ICD-10
  • Interoperability
  • Meaningful Use

And lastly, if your start-up is tangential to any of these topics, make sure you do a deep dive on the related HIMSS12 sessions. For example, if you dabble in interoperability, you’ll definitely want to book some solid hours at the HIMSS12 Interoperability Showcase.

5. Map out your must-see’s (no really, get a map of the booths at the show and create a plan of attack!)
It goes without saying that you should probably check out Nuance’s booth #3523 if for nothing other than a friendly face, to see the latest in voice recognition and language technologies in action, and for some hands-on touchscreen technology. In all seriousness, make sure you have reliable access to a digital map or at least a printout version. It’s an expansive space and in addition to having a mapped out plan of attack, you’ll need to wear solid shoes that are kind on the feet. Save your special shoes for the “Inga Loves My Shoes Contest” at HIStalkapalooza.

6. What do you want to be remembered for?
Before you head to HIMSS12, you’ll want to determine how best to spread knowledge of your company, its capabilities and, well, yourself. HIMSS is “paperless” so as you pull together a potential press packet and/or any type of leave behind, remember proper protocol is to go digital whenever possible. One alternative to the paper press packet is to save all of your key content onto thumb drives. Just make sure you map the content back to the audience you’re handing it off to. In other words, potential partners probably don’t need a glossy headshot of you on that USB – media on the other hand definitely do.

7. Pass the torch
You can be sure that we’ll be sharing key insights and thoughts after the show via our blog, For the Health of IT. We recommend you follow suit. Don’t have a blog? No sweat. Look for other reputable bloggers in the space and pitch yourself as a subject matter expert. You’ll need to take a stance on something(s) at HIMSS that got you excited. Keep in mind, the more controversial that “something” is, the better. In addition to positioning yourself as a thought leader whether via your blog or another expert’s, this also affords you an opportunity to share insight from HIMSS with those who may not have been able to attend the event this year. In other words, share lessons learned and pay it forward.