andrea palmer
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When Publicis Health Media announced its HealthFront 2019 event a few weeks ago, industry reaction was exceedingly enthusiastic. “It’s about time we had something like this” was the prevailing sentiment.

We’ll have much more on the HealthFront closer to the event – and all sorts of coverage during and after it – but for now here’s a quick-hit primer, with commentary from PHM president Andrea Palmer.

What’s a HealthFront?

You know how networks have the Upfronts and digital media publishers and players have the NewFronts? The HealthFront is an Upfront or NewFront for health media.

When is it happening?

July 16-17 at the Classic Car Club Manhattan, a venue that is everything its name suggests and yet still somehow more. There’s space for more than 400, but tickets are going fast. “We might have underestimated the response,” Palmer says, noting that PHM is looking into live-streaming options.

Who’s gonna be there?

First and foremost, PHM clients. Content partners include publishers you’d expect, given their outsized presence in and around health (Verywell, Meredith, Condé Nast, Healthline, Health Union, Healthgrades), and at least one you wouldn’t (Vice Media).

Will there be celebrities?

But of course. An upfront-ish event without celebrities is a bed without pillows. Martha Stewart and Dr. Oz are on board, with others to be announced soon.

How’d this thing come about?

Palmer came up with the idea after leaving last year’s Upfronts and NewFronts feeling a bit unfulfilled. “I was thinking, ‘This is really cool, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s relevant in healthcare,’” she recalls. “Last summer, we decided this would be one of our key pillars. We coined the name and the rest is history.”

Why now? Why not, say, six years ago?

Palmer isn’t sure the market would have supported it. Today, she says, it’s a different story. “You have new channels, new strategies, new technologies, new solutions – there are things out there on the periphery that people hear about but don’t know how to use yet,” she explains.

What’s on the agenda?

“New spins on old topics and new topics that haven’t hit the circuit yet,” according to Palmer.

Any specifics?

So good of you to ask. “Healthcare on Demand” will explore “what the future of personalized healthcare means now that it’s here in a meaningful way, whether you’re talking about telemedicine or at-home genetic testing,” Palmer says. “AI Joins the Care Team” will weigh in the applications of AI to healthcare itself, as opposed to just healthcare data. “I know ‘AI’ has become a little bit of a jargon term nowadays, but there’s a lot going on here,” she adds.

The excellently named “The Doc with the Dragon Tattoo: From Paternalism to Partnership” will survey the technology and scientific methods that allow outside sources to influence healthcare “Obviously people are coming in with a lot more information now,” Palmer notes. And four yet-to-be-named startups will pitch their hearts out during the Shark Tank-component of “The PHM Disruption Garage,” with Stewart, Dr. Oz, IBM Watson’s Keith Hopkins and Google’s Ryan Olohan serving as judges.

What’s the best-case scenario for HealthFront 2019?

“That everybody walks away feeling like they heard something that they haven’t heard over and over again,” Palmer says. “We want to reimagine media in ways that are unexpected and build connections between audiences and brands. If HealthFront does that, it’ll be a success to me.”

What’s next?

Er, the 2020 HealthFront. “In our heads, this is an annual event, and my anticipation is it grows beyond one event,” Palmer says. Possibilities include a series of smaller roundtable events and West Coast get-togethers that focus on startups. “We’ll see where the best response comes from and build on that,” she adds.

The Third M is MM&M’s weekly health media column. Got ideas or questions? Contact Larry Dobrow at