At the end of each year, I try to pause and take stock of what I/we accomplished over the last 12 months. If I don’t do that, I begin to feel as though I’m on some crazy carnival ride and can’t get off. The ride (and the years) just keeps spinning and spinning. Pausing briefly to look back at the past year is something I recommend to other professionals as a sanity-saving habit. Let’s face it, the further you go with your career, the less positive feedback and encouragement you receive. So, it is up to you to assess your performance and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. It’s also important to note where you fell short.
A Year of Important Themes
Rather than provide a long list of accomplishments (awards, publications, conference presentations), I’d like to focus on something more important. I’m extremely proud that I took the time this year to pursue my professional passions and address issues that are important to me. Two of those topics are patient safety and population health management. I covered these topics in several conference presentations, podcast interviews, and blog posts. Honestly, these aren’t topics that draw big crowds when you’re at a conference of healthcare marketers. But at this point in my career, I want to talk about neglected topics that deserve our attention, rather than simply choose the hottest topics. Patient safety deserves our attention. At a minimum, 200,000 people die from preventable medical errors in our hospitals each year. Some say that number is as high as 400,000. Marketers can play an important role in building a culture of safety within their organizations to prevent these errors. That’s something I want to talk about when given the opportunity, even if only 14 people show up for the presentation. I want to thank Kim Hollon (CEO) and Lorraine McGrath (Director of Marketing) of Signature Healthcare for being my partners as we collectively strive to put patient safety higher on the agenda of healthcare system administrators across the country. Sometimes it feels like tilting at windmills, but it’s work that needs to be done.
As in past years, collaboration was an important theme in my 2019 professional life. I presented at conferences with clients and co-workers. Kate Gillmer, one of my co-workers, and I presented at the annual #HITMC Conference in Boston and at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Conference in Minnesota. I’ll add that we presented on the topic of population health management! I presented at the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Annual Meeting with David Elstein, my friend and client from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS). In November, Lorraine McGrath (Signature Healthcare) and I presented on the topic of patient safety at the annual CHPRMS Conference.
Cristal Herrera Woodley joined me at the annual NESHCo Conference in Providence, Rhode Island to share the Renown Health thought leadership content marketing case study. This was the third time that Cristal and I have presented together. I can’t say enough about how much I value our partnership with the team from Renown Health – from their visionary CEO, Dr. Tony Slonim, to their amazing CMO, Suzanne Hendery, to their entire marketing team. Together, we have accomplished more than I ever imagined possible, and there’s so much more to be done. The time I spend at Renown each year is uplifting and inspirational.
In 2019, I also collaborated on a NESHCo Webinar with my friend, Reem Noah. Reem is a senior VP at Adams & Knight – a firm that could be seen as a competitor of Jennings (my firm) but she is awesome and we needed to do this presentation together.
In 2019, I made a number of new professional friends and strengthened existing friendships. I am so grateful for these relationships! Honestly, my friendships and relationships continue to drive me forward. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand the importance of investing in relationships and place far more emphasis on making time for friends.
2019 certainly presented me with challenges and opportunities. I put these all under the heading of “adventures.” One of the biggest adventures I embarked on was assuming the role of president of the New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCo). This took place in October when my good friend, Mike O’Farrell, stepped down as president. In 2019, I also joined the board of the Carolinas Healthcare Public Relations & Marketing Society and took on the role of sponsorship chair. It was a bear of a task but I survived and the organization had an amazing Fall 2019 conference.
Other adventures included starting work with a number of new clients. In addition to the new hospital clients we added throughout the year, we also began working with a number of non-hospital healthcare organizations: Physician Assistant Education Association, Carolina Donor Services, and the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery. Over the last few years, our client base has diversified with the addition of healthcare organizations that are not providers. I believe this experience enriches us as a company and makes us more well-rounded as a strategic resource for our clients.
As a company, this was the year that we fully embraced the importance of flexibility in the workplace. My friend Andrew runs a digital media company that has no permanent office space and all 30+ employees work remotely from locations around the country. We knew that it was inevitable that we would adopt a similar model at some point in our evolution. For the last few years, we’ve had employees in North Carolina, New England, Florida, and Texas. Still, the bulk of our employees are in North Carolina and work at our office in Chapel Hill. All employees get flex days each week when they can work remotely and several work flex schedules every day. Others, like me, travel on a regular basis and spend very little time in our office. This experience has taught us a lot about flexibility in the workplace and has made our 5,000 square foot office look like a white elephant. Frankly, with so many employees working remotely and traveling on most days, we just don’t need the space. So, we’ve spent the last year looking at how we want to structure the company once our lease expires in May 2020. It’s an exciting opportunity and one that will lead to the continued evolution of our organization. We have a plan and I can’t wait to execute it! Stay tuned.
I’m excited to get 2020 started! The holiday season was incredibly busy with business travel and I already have two trips scheduled for January. Overall, I’ve got some big plans for 2020 that could be transformative if they come to fruition. I enter the year knowing that I am not satisfied with the status quo. Change will come and I want to be driving that change rather than reacting to it.