It’s been fun to watch the evolution of healthcare at SXSW. When I first went 4 years ago (wow, I can’t believe that was 4 years ago), healthcare was just trying to find its place in the mass of a conference that is SXSW. I was one of the judges for the health IT startup pitch competition and healthcare had graduated to having its own campus at SXSW. However, the sessions were pretty light and there weren’t that many of the people you’d expect in healthcare IT to be there.
4 years later, some of the people you’d really want at the event aren’t there, but some very interesting startup healthcare IT companies are at the event. Plus, thanks to things like IoT (Internet of Things) and the interest in wearables, SXSW has done a good job featuring many of the health tech startup companies which fit into those larger trends. In fact, health is often one of the biggest parts of these larger trends.
There are so many healthcare IT conferences out there to choose from so I understand why many in healthcare don’t venture to the insanity that is SXSW. Plus, I think that it’s hard for many in healthcare to realize that SXSW is more than just a music festival (something that’s not been true for a long time) and more importantly to convince their bosses that they’re not just going to Austin to have fun.
I personally think that some of the ethos and culture of SXSW are what’s needed in healthcare. One of the key experiences that SXSW tries to cultivate is the mixing of various creative cultures in order to spark new and surprising creativity. That means that sometimes a tech startup entrepreneur will be spending time with a musician or film executive. This mixing of cultures can lead each person to surprising new insights into their business. The startup entrepreneur might find a new way to attract an audience for their product based on something the musician does to spread his music. The musician might learn about new tech that could create new layers to their music from the startup entrepreneur. You get the idea.
Healthcare could benefit from some outside influence. Just to be clear. This doesn’t mean that you throw out the culture that you know. Definitely not. It does mean you get exposure to another culture that can help expand your thinking. Over time we all get somewhat narrow minded in our thinking. Exposure to new ideas helps to expand our minds.
The same is even true within different departments in healthcare. How often does your lab interact with radiology or radiology with your ED or your pharmacy with your clinicians? If you work in a hospital you know what I’m talking about. We get stuck in our ruts and often don’t leave them. It’s nice and comfortable in our ruts and so we don’t see why we should leave them. That’s poison to an organization that wants to innovate. Take a lesson from SXSW and cultivate experiences and opportunities for different cultures to mix and learn from each others unique perspectives and experiences.