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Blown Away By Patient Stories: Top Takeaways From HLTH 2019

Elevating the patient voice is our passion at WEGO Health. It’s baked into everything we do. So when HLTH reached out earlier this year to explore how we could work together to bring the patient voice to its second annual conference in Las Vegas, we were ecstatic. As HLTH’s partner we saw an opportunity to ensure that patients weren’t just attending, but being heard.

HLTH 2019 was as incredible as we had hoped. It was packed with emotional and powerful connections. And it was an honor to have a platform where we could both recognize our 2019 WEGO Health Award winners and get their stories heard by healthcare leaders from across the industry.

As we reflect on our partnership with HLTH and the conference itself, there are three key points we walked away with.

HLTH made the investment to ensure a strong patient voice

There has been legitimate criticism over the years from the Patient Leader community that patients aren’t sufficiently represented at industry conferences. HLTH knew they had to face this head-on. And they did.

In contrast to its inaugural conference in 2018, they stepped up and made a serious investment this year. They sponsored 15 Patient Leaders, covering admission and travel expenses. But they didn’t stop there. From help with last minute travel logistics to personal outreach from their executive team, HLTH went above and beyond to ensure the patients and caregivers who came from as far as England felt welcomed and valued.

Between video interviews, panel discussions and podcast interviews, every WEGO Health Awards winner had the opportunity to share their experience during the four-day event.

It’s not lost on us how much time, money and personal investment the HLTH team put in to make this partnership a success. We’ve worked with many conference organizers over the years and can unequivocally say this team put in more blood, sweat and tears than we ever expected.

Attendees were genuinely blown away by patients’ stories

If there’s one message we kept hearing, it was how blown away the audience was by the WEGO Health Awards winners. A reignited passion for their work and a speechless emotional response left not a dry eye in the house.

Attendees who had the chance to meet the patient leaders one-on-one, or who came to the WEGO Health Awards ceremony, all agreed it was among the highlights of the conference.

Our good friend Reena Sangar of Ipsos summed it up perfectly:

“As someone who has worked in Healthcare for over 10 years, I had a realization that we can become quite transactional in our language and our approach to uncovering unmet needs. We start to become immune – when you see disease every day when you look at stats on health every day – it begins to blur into a state of “normal”. Attending the WEGO Health Awards and hearing from individuals so personally and so passionately taking charge of their situation (for themselves or a loved one), and being vulnerable enough to let us into their lives… it moved me and my entire team. It shook us through stories and testimonials how real and devastating illness can be, but also motivating when you can help others through your experience or advocacy for change. Huge congratulations to all the patients who are brave enough to share, and thank you to the WEGO Health team for recognizing these patient leaders” – Reena Sangar Director & Head of Digital and Connected Health, at Ipsos Healthcare

We all agree patients need a seat at the table, but there’s work to be done

Coming out of a patient engagement panel during the MedCity Engage event, it was clear that there are a lot of opportunities for companies to be working closely with patient leaders, but there are still cultural barriers to be overcome.

Which brings us back to our mission: This is a message we’re going to continue to bring home. Not just at HLTH, but at every other conference we’re involved with.

HLTH made incredible headway incorporating the patient voice into HLTH 2019, which is all the more commendable considering this was its second year. A lot was learned over the course of the four-day event, and next year we look forward to making an even bigger impact. Top of mind for us is working with patient leaders to plan a dedicated patient track, bring patients to the main stage and ensure all 6,000+ attendees can take in the raw emotional power of the WEGO Health Awards.

And who knows, maybe we’ll even line up a forward-thinking sponsor who will realize why they should invest in getting all 75 WEGO Health Awards finalists to HLTH 2020! (We can dream – right?)

Recognizing the 2019 WEGO Health Awards Winners

And last, but certainly not least, we want to send a warm congratulations to our new class of WEGO Health Awards winners.

It’s because of HLTH these patient leaders were able to travel to Las Vegas to be recognized. Each of our distinguished winners were presented their WEGO Health Award by a leader from the healthcare industry. Between the presenter’s intros and the winner’s acceptance speeches, it was evening few attendees will ever forget.

We were thrilled to have twelve of the fifteen 2019 WEGO Health Awards winners with us on the HLTH stage. A few were unable to make it but were honored in absentia, including: Rookie of the Year Winner Emily Garnett – Beyond the Pink Ribbon, Best in Show: YouTube Winner Daniel Jones, The Aspie World, and Lifetime Achievement Winner Tom Kindlon.

Here are some highlights from the event. Each of the winners posed with WEGO Health CEO Jack Barrette and myself, Julie Croner, VP of the Patient Leader Network. We’ll also be posting a video of the entire ceremony very soon, so stay tuned.

Advocating for Another Winner Dana Kelsey, Autism IRL with Presenter Reena Sangar Director & Head of Digital and Connected Health, at Ipsos Healthcare

Best Kept Secret Winner Natasha Tracy, Bipolar Burble with Presenter Lygeia Ricciardi, Chief Transformation Officer at Carium

Best Team Performance Winner Victoria Abbott-Fleming, Burning Nights CRPS Support with Presenter Cheryl Pegus, Chief Medical Officer, Cambia

Hilarious Patient Leader Winner Danielle Gulden and Joe Teeters, Double Baggin’ It with Presenter Spring Liu, Executive Director of Digital Products, Novartis

Best in Show: Community Winner Alexa Chronister, Fight Like A Warrior with Presenter Michele Baer, Senior Director – Global Leader, Health Technology Innovation Communication at Johnson & Johnson

Best in Show: Instagram Winner Taylor Marae, @health_anxiety with Presenter Rasu Shreta, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President at Atrium Health

Best in Show: Blog Winner Kelly Cervantes, Inchstones with Presenter Rolf Benirschke, CEO, Legacy Health Strategies & Founder of the Grateful Patient Project

Best in Show: Twitter Winner John Poehler, The Bipolar Battle with Presenter Heather Burton, Vice President of Marketing, Healthsparq

Best in Show: Podcast Winner Lauren Freedman, Uninvisible Pod with Presenter Dan Kendall, Managing Editor & Host of Digital Health Today and Founder of Mission Based Media

Patient Leader Hero and Best in Show: Facebook Winner Asa Maass, Fathering Autism with Presenter Freddy Abnousi, Head of Healthcare – Research at Facebook

Healthcare Collaborator: Patient Winner Melissa Talwar, Support Fibromyalgia with Presenter Constance Sjoquist, Chief Transformation Officer, HLTH

We are honored to play a small role in honoring these patient leaders for their achievements and look forward to bringing the next class of winners to HLTH 2020.

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