Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit 2021: Preview

July 19, 2021

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

jane weber brubakerThis year’s conference is October 6-8 in South Florida. If you want to rub elbows with top industry leaders and learn from the best, this is the place to be.

Among all the health care marketing and strategy conferences that had to upend their plans for in-person events in 2020, one had the distinction of being on the leading edge twice. The Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit (HMPS or the Summit) was the first conference to make the difficult decision to cancel its live event in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Then it was first to pivot to a virtual conference just a few months later. Hard work and flexibility paid off. The result was a robust and sophisticated online event held last August.

Judy Neiman, president, Forum for Healthcare Strategists

Judy Neiman, president, Forum for Healthcare Strategists

This year, there’s good news for the industry. HMPS21 will be back live at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry on October 6-8. Normally held in the spring, the conference was moved to the fall of 2021 to ensure the safety of attendees; in 2022, it will be back in the spring, May 16-18 in Salt Lake City.

“In planning the agenda, we got the message loud and clear — first from the chairs, then from the advisory panel, and then from the people who reviewed the agenda — that they want to move on [from COVID],” says Judy Neiman, president of the Forum for Healthcare Strategists, founders and producers of HMPS. “They want to get into growth, they want to get into bringing the silos together, they want to get into the lessons learned.”

Susan Alcorn, strategic counselor, Alcorn Strategic Communications and Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock

Susan Alcorn, strategic counselor, Alcorn Strategic Communications and Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock

The conference co-chairs — Susan Alcorn, strategic counselor, Alcorn Strategic Communications and Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock; Kriss Barlow, principal, Barlow/McCarthy; and Chris Boyer, vice president, digital & marketing intelligence, Beth Israel Lahey Health — have been hard at work putting together a program that aligns with educational needs identified by the industry.

We spoke with the team to bring you this preview of HMPS21. Let’s listen to the drumbeat they’re hearing, and we’ll share some of the larger themes of the conference.


Making up for losses accrued over the course of the pandemic is a key focus for health systems, and HMPS21 tackles the issue from multiple directions, with six different tracks:

  1. Strategic Marketing
  2. Communication Strategies
  3. Transforming Consumer Experience
  4. Interactive & Digital Strategies
  5. Physician Relations & Sales
  6. Engagement Strategies
Kriss Barlow, principal, Barlow/McCarthy

Kriss Barlow, principal, Barlow/McCarthy

“Growth really matters for organizations right now,” says Barlow, an expert in physician relations. “Organizations are trying desperately to regain what they lost, and that’s both in terms of momentum, but also referral growth and dollars.”

Alcorn adds, “I think for all of us that is true. We always have metrics that we have to meet, whether it’s communications, digital, physician liaisons, marketing. But now more than ever our colleagues are being asked to double step to try to pick up for the revenue that’s been lost over the past year.”

Session to Attend

  • A Focus on Opportunities & Growth: Marketing’s Role (concurrent)

The sessions reflect the massive changes brought on by the pandemic in the ways work gets done, and how this paved the way for new models. For example, the pandemic radically altered the way physician liaisons did their jobs, shifting from in-person meetings with physicians in the field to virtual contact. Barlow sees this as an opportunity: A hybrid model that incorporates both can maximize time and resources post-pandemic.

Sessions to Attend

  • Physician Relations in a Hybrid World (concurrent)
  • Work, Workforce & Workplace (keynote) 


“Silo” has become almost a four-letter word in health care. Silos keep departments walled off from one another, stop the flow of information, and ultimately prevent organizations from realizing their full potential.

The pressures of the pandemic helped break down the divisions, and health care organizations quickly learned to collaborate. The conference features several sessions about the tangible benefits of collaboration.

Sessions to Attend

  • Breaking Down Silos for a Better Digital Experience (concurrent)
  • Better Together: Service Lines Thrive on Collaboration Efforts (concurrent)
Chris Boyer, vice president, digital & marketing intelligence, Beth Israel Lahey Health

Chris Boyer, vice president, digital & marketing intelligence, Beth Israel Lahey Health

“We are starting to work together and collaborate in ways that we never have. We did it to respond to the emergency last year,” says Boyer. “We saw digital marketers working hand in hand with communicators, and we saw the physician outreach team working very closely with the marketing team. We’ve learned that our traditionally siloed organizations don’t operate well in a silo. We operate much more effectively when we start to work together.”


Communications leaders played a starring role during the pandemic, keeping their organizations aligned, and communication flowing out in all directions.

“We’ve managed to get to the table in ways that we never could before,” says Alcorn. “What did the CEO call us about at 11 o’clock at night that was so emergent, that normally would have been security’s responsibility, or the medical staff office responsibility? All of a sudden, they thought of the communications team first because it was such a multidimensional problem. And we have to take those learnings and those relationships and continue to build on them.”

Sessions to Attend

  • Healthcare Communication Structure, Strategy & Culture: Forever Changed (concurrent)
  • Issue & Crisis Communications: Successfully Navigate the Inevitable (pre-Summit strategy session)
  • Make the Case for Investing in Marketing & Communications (keynote)
  • Communicate with Extreme Clarity & Impact in Today’s Hybrid World (keynote)

Effective employee communication has always been important and was essential during the pandemic. The conference features several sessions focused on internal communications, including one on how to turn your employees into brand advocates.

Sessions to Attend

  • Amp Up the Power in Your Internal Communications (concurrent)
  • Reimagine the Intranet to Boost Employee Engagement (concurrent)

“I always think of our employees first, and how we’re going to personalize the messaging, how we give our CEOs and executive team leaders a face to all of our very exhausted internal community members,” Alcorn says.

Why Attend HMPS21

We’ve shared just a few of the educational highlights — check out the full agenda here — but there’s so much more to attending a conference, namely, what we all missed last year: being together in person. Video chat got us through the pandemic, but it’s no substitute for face-to-face.

Exhibitors will have the opportunity to network in person with conference attendees, a welcome change from 2020. The exhibit hall has space for 65 booths, and Neiman expects those to be sold out.

The intangible benefits of live conferences are many and varied. Here’s what the co-chairs value about the HMPS experience:

“The value is that we all can talk to each other about our different points of view,” says Alcorn, adding, “It’s a good idea for us to get together and have those conversations in formal settings, but oh my goodness, to have it with a drink in hand or a cup of coffee in hand — we certainly are looking forward to that, aren’t we?”

Barlow values the conference’s focus on physician strategies. “There’s no conference better than this to really talk about strategically, what do we need to learn from our internal stakeholders? And then how do I bring voice of physician as customer from the outside into my leadership?” she says.

On the topic of collaboration and breaking down silos, Boyer shares, “I think the conference is going to represent that and highlight that through a number of the presentations we see there. It’s showing that that is how we’re working together now in a completely new way,” he says.

And let’s not overlook fun. “After the events of the past year and a half, we’re all looking forward to reuniting in person again,” says Neiman. “The Summit offers not only an action-packed agenda but a beautiful setting for simply relaxing and enjoying time with colleagues after a great day of education and networking.”

Jane Weber Brubaker is executive editor of Plain-English Health Care, a division of Plain-English Media. She directs editorial content for eHealthcare Strategy & Trends and Strategic Health Care Marketing, and is past chair of the eHealthcare Leadership Awards. Email her at