J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference: The Pursuit of Value

Jack Stockert
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The recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, its 35th iteration, served as an unofficial 2017 kick-off for organizations invested in the future of healthcare. Sandwiched between CES and HIMSS, the conference has historically focused on life science ventures and hospital systems that are customers of the bank. In recent years, however, the function of the week has has evolved dramatically for relevant stakeholders in the healthcare marketplace.

The healthcare space has transformed into a dynamic hotbed of innovation and funding. Consider the intersections of payment, quality, regulation, consumerism, and technology in the contemporary business of healthcare and you get quite the interesting mixing pot. Those other conferences, CES and HIMSS, have their own significance, and each give voice to healthcare sensations propelled by the rise of IT spending and the development of devices for every type of activity in the space. However, the JPM conference owns the narrative of value in regard to the future of healthcare. To illustrate, I’ll quickly touch on three aspects that make the conference unique.

More storytelling than a children’s classroom

At its core, the conference is about describing the financing and functions that a bank like JPM provides. It’s a gathering fueled by storytelling. This lately manifests in two ways:

  1. The CEOs and CFOs of the largest companies in healthcare come to relate their narratives for 2017, and recount the tale of the year that was. It is a key forum for explaining new strategies for allocating capital for the future as well as answering questions surrounding allocations of capital over the prior year.
  2. As the heat around information technology and health data intensifies, the need to inject regulatory considerations into integration and blurred business models has grown more pressing. Questions surrounding data security and interoperability among multiple parties pop up in every tale, and regulatory issues increasingly drive the plot.

At the 2016 conference, a highly publicized keynote featured a stage shared by Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator for CMS, and Dr. James Madara, CEO of the AMA. The presentation was a significant indicator of the heightened role of regulatory guidelines and physician collaboration in future narratives on healthcare. JPM 2017 saw an expansion of this important trend with Vice President Biden joining the action.

A drive to change the world while producing ROI

The JPM conference is largely about the future. JPM’s future stories are related to capital resources and the need to generate a return on investment for shareholders and investors. This translates into an overarching bent toward the concept delivering value. Great missions are not put into motion simply because we have achieved the capability to complete them; great missions must be shown to be achievable and deliver tangible improvement and reward. The fascinating aspect about the evolution of this conference in recent years has been the rise of information and technology’s importance in narratives of particular significance to executive leadership. CEOs and CFOs are talking about these topics, not just CIOs. The promise of the future is tied explicitly to the short-term opportunity cost of pursuing other efforts; and recurring themes explore how technology can unlock astounding opportunities or relegate an incumbent to irrelevance.

Meetings around the meeting

The real action at the JPM conference centers less around the symposium held at the Westin St. Francis than it does around the meetings that occur around the meeting. The deals that endow the promise of a new innovation or the soundness of a venture are made at an assortment of restaurant tables and in ancillary hotel rooms and meeting spaces around the city. I’d hazard a guess that over 75% of the population surge that inundates San Francisco during JPM conference week are individuals who don’t attend a single session at the symposium. They are most definitely drawn by the promise of face time with the players who do attend or speak at the event, which ignites millions upon millions of fundraising and investment.

For Health2047, unique nature of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference reflects a sound approach toward transforming healthcare. Crafting narratives amidst finance, industry, and regulatory leadership in the healthcare space ensures strategic vision aligned to a shared belief that no individual entity can go at it alone. And the finance-focused underpinnings of this event provide a healthy constraint to encourage development of solutions of value that last.

This spirit of market-driven collaboration permeated related events around the city. One of the greatest challenges was in finding meaningful forums for those random rich interactions that generate new partnerships and initiatives. Many settings devolve into overly loud cocktail parties or insular circles, but there are also gatherings steeped in serendipity, where random collisions of an unexpected nature occur and high-value interactions take place. We held our own intimate Health2047/American Medical Association joint reception in conjunction with the JPM conference. The stories exchanged around our studio that rainy evening projected a financeable, productive, and meaningful 2017 that will transform what healthcare will look like in 2047. That’s a narrative with value.

— Jack Stockert is Managing Director at Health2047.

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