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October 2013

How Big Media Does Medical Meetings

By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor
whole new area of [private health-insurance] exchanges, which is clearly a big issue and something [that] I know a lot of organizations are looking at.

Atlantic/Smalley It’s creating a program that is compelling and has a mix of voices talking about wonky issues, like how the Affordable Care Act might change the health-care landscape, but also talking about new technologies and interesting ideas and individual innovators in the health-care field. I have a large staff working with me on content. We do a lot of research on what the major issues of the day are — what we think will prove valuable and interesting and substantive to an audience of top D.C. policy makers and other stakeholders in the health-care conversation.

But then, we also look into things that haven’t been talked about as much, that might be new information or just give people access to an up-and-coming talent. I’m thinking, not at this year’s forum, but the prior year, where we had the CEO of PatientsLikeMe, which a lot of people in Washington hadn’t heard of. It turns out this guy has a great story, a really inspiring story. His brother died of Lou Gehrig’s disease [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)], and he started a company that aggregates patient records and patient information. It’s totally voluntary, obviously, but for a disease that rare, it can be an incredible thing for patients to be able to unite via the web with every other patient out there who has ALS. They’re mining these records for patterns to see what they might be able to find in terms of commonalities and how that might inform ALS research. Bringing him down from Boston, which is where he’s based, was of great interest to a lot of the D.C. health establishment, who mainly had heard about him in passing or read about PatientsLikeMe, like I had. But to have him on stage, giving a 45-minute presentation about his work, was really wonderful.

SPEAKERS: EVIDENCE-BASED VS. INSIDE-WASHINGTON

Economist/Cox We have Ralph de la Torre from Steward Health Care System talking about payment reform. And then, particularly, the area where we can bring our global expertise to play is the space around evidence-based medicine. We have a company which we own in the U.K. called Bazian, and Bazian does a lot of work for the National Health Service in terms of looking at this whole area of evidence-based medicine, or perhaps better called value-based medicine, and so we’re going to be bringing somebody over from Bazian to talk about that, because this is obviously quite a political issue here in the U.S. How far do you go with treating people, and how much does it cost to treat people?

We’re also going to be looking at retail. One of the interesting things that we see in the marketplace is that many of the large national retail chains are getting into health care as well. They see opportunity in getting in on the act to provide local health-care services for people who perhaps are afraid to go to hospitals or doctors. We’re calling that particular session “Blood Samples and Bar Soap.” It’s really around companies like CVS, Walmart, [and] Safeway. And that’s quite an interesting development in the market. How far can they push that?

We’re going to be covering liability. One of the things that does drive health-care costs is professional indemnity insurance and the whole area around that, so we’re going to be looking at that as part of the program. Another session will be on big data. Clearly, a lot of the organizations — [such as] hospitals — see big data as a way of being able to manage their customers and manage their patients. And so we’re going to have the chief information officer of the Cleveland Clinic talking, and also the founder and executive vice president of GNS Healthcare.

We’ll finish with a couple of sessions — one looking at the patient’s journey, which is taking health care and looking at it slightly differently in terms of, what will the hospital of the future look like from a design perspective? And then the final session will be a future review - the re-imagination of the business. What’s health care going to look like? What will this business look like in the U.S. in, say, five years’ time, 10 years’ time, and what impact do we think the Affordable Care Act will have on that?

Atlantic/Smalley We did a case study with [Jeff Arnold,] the CEO of Sharecare, talking about a project they’re doing with the U.S. Army and comprehensive soldier fitness. He’s a former CEO of WebMD. That was a new and fresh voice.

But then we also had the inside-Washington voices with a lot of data at their fingertips, a lot of expertise, like Kavita Patel, who is the director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution. We had a director of the National Institute of Mental Health. And we had other important establishment and government voices on what’s going on in health care.

This year we happened to have had a cover story [in the magazine] that Jonathan Cohn, who’s the author of a big book on the health-care crisis, wrote about the future of medicine. It was actually titled “The Robot Will See You Now” — a lot of technology and robotics and that sort of thing. So we had Jonathan come and lead a conversation [at Health Care Forum 2013] with Ari Caroline, who was mentioned in his story as the director of quantitative analysis at Memorial Sloan-Kettering [Cancer Center in New York City]. So that was a really lucky break for us that the timing worked out and we were able to showcase such an interesting initiative that has recently been featured on the cover of the magazine. That doesn’t always happen, but when we can extend like that it’s a nice opportunity.

MAGAZINE: IDEAS PEOPLE VS. THE LARGER CULTURE

Economist/Cox Our programs really are geared toward what we call the ideas people. In the broader sense of the word, what our business is about is discussing and disseminating ideas for the future. [Economist health-care correspondent] Charlotte Howard will be chairing the [Health Care Forum] along with some of the colleagues from the Economist Intelligence Unit [EIU], such as Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau [EIU’s director for industry publishing, analysis, and data], and our colleagues from the company that we own in Europe. That one in particular, which is Bazian, will play an active role throughout the day in generating debate and discussion. I think that’s something that The Economist does well. We’re provocative in our approach. We’re not shrinking violets. We’ll challenge and we’ll push, and we’ll make sure that we leave no stone unturned.

Atlantic/Smalley The most paramount thing that is always in my mind is that we are an editorial extension of the magazine, and we always need to ensure that everything you put on stage is worthy of that brand name and diversity of perspectives and really compelling and substantive content that would have a place in the magazine itself — even if it doesn’t always naturally happen that we have a story that we’re able to bring to life, so to speak, in the event as we did with the Jonathan Cohn piece. Beyond that, our editors moderate many of the discussions. We certainly look to them for their expertise in terms of recommending speakers or ideas that we should think about.

We definitely want to have The Atlantic brand be consistent across platforms. We see ourselves as a really, truly 21st-century cutting-edge, forward-looking media property, with our robust online coverage, our live coverage. The general brand identity of The Atlantic is policy but broader - to the larger culture, what the future holds. You know, having a mix of writers like [Atlantic senior editor] Alexis Madrigal and then [national

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