It is most assuredly not to learn about healthcare technology developments from Howie Mandel or Nick Jonas, and it is not to hit the Las Vegas strip.
I am attending HLTH because I happen to think it is the most important gathering in the health tech world these days. As noted in a blog this past spring, all trade shows matter, and if you can, you should attend as many as possible. So why single out HLTH?
The show has a captivating mix of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s), true industry disrupters, the biggest and most focused healthcare investors, and a broad group of important players in the health technology space. As interesting as all those folks are, the primary reason I am going to HLTH isn’t them. I find HLTH compelling because it attracts the largest group of health tech entrepreneurs.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an entrepreneur as the “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise”. Running any business is hard. However, starting and building a digital health company is harder, and the rewards are greater. Health tech founders and executives are just unique leaders. Of course, many of them are well paid, but compared to other industries like finance or pure tech, compensation isn’t why they focus on health. What separates these health entrepreneurs is the way they are driven by risk-taking, leadership, and most importantly mission. Every health tech CEO I know can explain how their offering is improving the patient experience in some manner. And that is what makes the health tech space so incredibly interesting.
Unlike HIMSS, HLTH is not the best place to meet with hordes of potential customers. Yes, there is a demo area, but it is not the product showcase opportunity you might find at other shows. Rather, HLTH is the place for health tech entrepreneurs to connect with investors and KOL’s. The backers of HLTH (and ViVE along with CHIME) have created the right balance of contemporary excitement and content. This “glitz” especially hits the mark at HLTH due to its core audiences of luminaries, CEOs, and investors.
So why do I think HLTH is the most pivotal event on the annual health tech calendar? Because when you mix health tech investment with entrepreneurship, important things usually happen. Hard to imagine now, but giants in the health tech industry like Epic and Microsoft were started by an entrepreneur with a small amount of investment capital and a singular focus. Judy Faulkner, who started with a $70,000 investment from friends and family, now leads the most important company in our space. Bill Gates, who began with the vision of a PC on every desktop, has software deployed in every hospital in the US if not the world.
Simply put, HLTH is a great opportunity to learn from the next Judy Faulkner and the next Bill Gates. One of the things that has always popped for me is the number of tech health leaders who have personally had an experience (usually bad) with our healthcare system and decided to try to fix it. Many of these leaders had little to no background in health but are now on a mission. That “mission-ness” is in the air at HLTH, and that’s why I am going.