Forbidden words of health IT marketing


I can think of only one word to describe the annual HIMSS conference: huge. (OK, we would have accepted big, massive, sprawling and even ginormous, but let's face it. This conference is huge.) HIMSS, which drew more than 27,000 people to Atlanta last week, has outgrown all but five U.S. convention cities: Atlanta, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Chicago and next year's venue, Orlando, Fla.

Close to 900 vendors exhibited at HIMSS10, and many more companies that didn't have booths in the exhibit hall--FierceMarkets included--made their presence known with a variety of unofficial events and product announcements surrounding HIMSS. As a reporter, I felt the brunt of this, in the form of an unrelenting avalanche of email and meeting requests. (I figure I read 200 emails the Friday before HIMSS, after having gone through some 150 messages the previous day.)

After a more subdued HIMSS in 2009, thanks to the lousy economy, vendors returned to form this year by going heavy on the hyperbole and the buzzwords. GE Healthcare debuted its "next-generation eHealth Solutions platform." Medseek introduced what it calls a "Groundbreaking eHealth Patterns Guide" (whatever a patterns guide is) for the healthcare industry. Symantec bucked the trend, particularly among breathless Silicon Valley types, by rather plainly stating the availability of "Symantec Health, a new hosted medical image archiving and sharing solution for healthcare providers, that helps lower storage costs and provides secure, web-based image sharing for non-affiliated hospitals and physicians."

I could go on, but I'd never have room for all the announcements that were made to coincide with HIMSS10. I'll save some relevant press releases for tomorrow's FierceMobileHealthcare.

However, I would like to offer a few pieces of advice to publicists as you plan for HIMSS11 and other major trade shows. First, even though HIMSS may seem to operate on a different schedule, there are only 24 hours in the day. As a human, I tend to need to sleep for a minimum of five of those 24 hours. Add in an hour for meals--another basic human requirement--and maybe 30 minutes to shower and dress each morning and another half hour to get to the venue, and you're down to no more than 17 hours for HIMSS-related activities. Some of us in the media also need time to, you know, actually write our stories. You see what I'm getting at here: I can't meet with all of you.

In narrowing down my meeting and coverage choices, I tend to tune out press releases that are laden with superlatives. Unless you have proof, how can I believe your claims that you are the "best," "leading" or "most" anything?

And going forward, I am officially forbidding the following words and phrases in health IT marketing:

  • Solution
  • Robust
  • "Fully HIPAA-compliant." Products can't be HIPAA-compliant. They can only provide the protections that HIPAA requires so the user can comply with HIPAA.
  • "Guarantee of meaningful use." Along the same lines, a vendor can't guarantee meaningful use of an EMR. As the phrase implies, it's up to the user to use the EMR in a meaningful way.

I'm happy to consider your additions to this list. - Neil

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