Field Notes: WPP's Stream Tackles Health Issues

Field notes: WPP's Stream tackles health issues
Field notes: WPP's Stream tackles health issues

With many individuals from different all aspects of the healthcare spectrum participating, an attendee always felt like he or she would get a fresh take on every topic. From doctors to administrators to Fortune 500 company middle managers to agency executives, there was a definitive roll-up-ones-sleeve mentality to tackle some of the biggest issues affecting healthcare and its peripheral industries.

Called an unconference due to its disdain for Power Point presentations and emphasis on small, interactive group conversations, Stream Health allowed individuals to alternate between providing intel on their area of specialty with the ability to attend sessions of completely foreign topics. Of course, this structure leads to some confusion on where to go and how to participate, but the organizers were always on hand to help.

My contributions were always considered and welcomed, even though I openly declared that I was a digital strategist that was less informed in the nuances of healthcare compared to my fellow participants. While actual discussions were off-the-record, which provided individuals with the comfort to share their unfiltered strategies and concerns, I can summarize some of the biggest takeaways:

  • The biggest trends people were watching; the quantified self, wearables and the potential of storing health information in the cloud. The last two invariably touched upon Apple, specifically, given the Apple Watch announcement took place on the conference's final day, and the recent concerns about security with the celebrity iCloud hacks
  • The impact of cues and behavior on health – some of the most compelling discussions centered around a globally-represented audience discussing how portion sizes and lack of healthy choices impact Americans and lower-income families
  • While every conference includes a healthy bit of networking, people seemed more interested in meeting individuals who could provide a unique look into the future of healthcare than someone who was directly a potential partner or sales lead. Conversations at dinner were wide-ranging, veering from macro topics to individuals' own personal health concerns and challenges
  • Nearly every discussion I attended required the moderator to remind participants about the topic on hand. Individuals would often relate their own experiences as patients or relatives of the afflicted, which would often spiral into a completely different topic. That is to simply put: no issue tackled has an easy solution. 

That there are no easy solutions makes conferences like these a great place to test out ideas and start thinking about the next challenges to affect the industry.

Keith O'Brien is VP, digital strategy, for Haymarket Media, which publishes MM&M.