"Right, But Who Is Behind This?"

Last week’s annual event in Alaska was a tremendous success.  With over 200 registered attendees, 53 speakers, and 20 other guests in attendance, the event is the largest, most diverse health care event in the state. Given Alaska’s population of 722,000, a comparably sized event in Oregon would draw about 1200 attendees.  In Washington, an event with the same attendance (as a percentage of the overall population) would mean an audience of 2100. In other words, Alaskan healthcare leaders are committed to working collaboratively towards bending the cost curve, improving quality outcomes, and expanding access where feasible.  You can hear a bit more about that in the NPR coverage from our event. It’s the success of the event that drew so much attention to us this last week – typically taking the shape of a common set of questions.

Who is behind this?  Why are you doing this?  Where does your funding come from?

All good questions.  And, admittedly, we try to keep a relatively low profile.  We don’t have an “About Us” tab on the site, for instance.

2012 Legacy & Leadership Recipent

Valerie Davidson

We do this because, as Valerie Davidson pointed out to me last year, “This event isn’t about you.”  So, we purposefully try to keep ourselves out of the mix, off panels, and out of the limelight to the greatest extent possible. State of Reform is a stakeholder-driven initiative that tries to bridge the gap between the worlds of health care and health policy.  We try to develop vehicles for the dissemination of information, case studies, best practices, strategic insight, and lessons learned. One vehicle for that information spread is this news site.  Another is our annual conference.  Another is our market-specific newsletter out each month with content specific to the individual market (Oregon’s will launch in January).  Still another is our book, “Dear Governor: About The State of Reform.” In short, State of Reform is about creating policy-agnostic opportunities for collaboration.  We don’t care about the particular outcome – each state is different.  But we think that the more folks listen to one another – and sometimes talk – the better the healthcare outcome will be. So, to the questions.

1.  Who is behind this?

State of Reform is an initiative hosted by me and our team at Wilson Strategic Communications.  We’re a healthcare strategy and public affairs firm that’s worked on health care in 7 states and Washington DC.  We keep our client side and our State of Reform side separate, for obvious reasons, which is in part why you don’t see a lot of cross-promotion (some, but not a lot).

2.  Why are you doing this?

Hosting a conference without a perceived agenda, where networking is fostered, and where any credible voice can have the microphone, is actually hard to do.  Smarter folks have decided to get out of this business.  But, that just leaves a tremendous vacuum for information.  We’re trying to fill it – not because there is a big upside, but because – like voting, jury duty, and going the speed limit – we sort of view this as our civic duty.  It’s something we can do that some others may not, and which has a real benefit for the community at large.

3.  Where does your funding come from?

That’s easy:  sponsorships and registration fees.  Unlike a foundation, we don’t have a steady stream of revenue that supports this.  So, we have to charge audience members a registration fee.  Unlike a pure for-profit event company that would be smart enough to draw from a national audience, we focus our efforts on a smaller pool.  So, while national events might charge $700-$1500 for comparable events (to say nothing of

travel expenses), we try to build events that allow for the broadest possible participation rate from all sectors of the industry.

Tom Holt

Tom Holt

In short, this initiative is about getting folks together to share their highest value content and considerations. Or, as Tom Holt puts it, “It’s not the same group of people talking about the same sort of stuff.” We agree.