John Kelly

Q&A with IDN CEO John Kelly

April 11, 2013
by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor
Walt Disney Co. is a lot on John Kelly’s mind, it seems. The CEO of the IDN Summit & Reverse Expo, Kelly cites the entertainment giant in explaining why health care conventions and tradeshows aren’t going anywhere, even if attendance has been down at some big shows, such as RSNA last fall. But he admits they’re getting more competitive. “The experience matters more today than ever before,“ he tells DOTmed News.

That knowledge is helping to inform the next IDN Summit, which runs April 22 – 24 in Orlando, Fla. (another Disney connection). The conference, now in its 19th year, gives health system supply chain executives two and a half days to mingle with GPO and supplier execs and sit in on presentations, lectures and other educational events. The final agenda for the show won’t come out until after this magazine goes to press, but Kelly says they’ve listened to requests of past attendees and they’re trying the cover the themes really crucial to their visitors’ businesses. The show’s four tracks – Market Strategies, Strategic Insights, Reform and New Models, Financial Operations — will each dig into the areas requested by past attendees, including the effects of the Affordable Care Act, how to better communicate with doctors and managing change and becoming a better leader.

“We’ve got over 30 systems making presentations or leading discussions on how these areas are impacting them,” Kelly says. “The key driver of IDN Summits is the concept of learning from others who are leading change in their respective organization.”For instance, Chuck Lauer is back to host the CEO Leadership Forum, and Eric O’Daffer of Gartner Research is hosting a discussion with supply chain execs on how the ACA is affecting their organizations, Kelly says.

So far, 67 health systems have committed to attend, and each one typically sends about three executives. IDN keeps the ratio of suppliers to attendees at 4:1. “We’ve never reached that saturation point with suppliers in attendance, but we feel we must never go beyond that ratio,” Kelly says.

DMBN: Where did the idea of a Reverse Expo come from?
I’m not really sure. When Greg Firestone first presented me with the format of the IDN Summit I was hooked. Greg had owned the event for years and when he outlined the concept to me, I was ready to buy the IDN Summit. I’ve owned traditional type of expos and conferences since 2000 and the Reverse Expo concept seemed like the perfect solution to the typical complaints from suppliers, such as, “not enough qualified leads “and from buyers: “how can I visit all of these booths?” We love the platform of reverse expos.

DMBN: Last spring you released a market report on how the relationship between health care executives and suppliers is changing. How is it changing and why?
The survey found that more than 50 percent of health care executive felt that their level of collaboration with suppliers has increased in the last five years. That is very significant and supports the idea that forging new collaborations with other industry partners as a means of addressing financial constraints has grown increasingly attractive. There are many benefits to these collaborations including greater cost efficiencies, improved negotiations, streamlined purchasing and access to relevant data.

DMBN: You typically release a market research report around the time of your summits. What do you have planned this year?
This year we are collaborating with some of our industry partners to bring valuable research and content to the IDN Summit Source Book. We are excited to offer important industry research in a central location.

DMBN: What’s new at this spring’s show?
We are revamping the first day. We’re introducing a Lunch N Learn program for attendees to learn more about new ideas coming to market and providing a platform for the GPOs to educate the suppliers in attendance on their new initiatives. The GPO Informational Forums begin the conference programming for sup- pliers. We are also launching a new concept for the last morning, Idea Exchanges. These Idea Exchanges provide a free flow of ideas on a particular topic. We receive numerous suggestions to provide time where attendees can learn from each other and we believe this will meet that demand.

What are you most excited about this year?
Hearing the Event Keynote Speaker, Maj. (Ret.) Dan Rooney. He’ll share with us his life lessons that he calls, A Patriot’s Calling- Living Life between Fear and Faith, which is the title of his new book. Dan is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and current PGA golf professional who has started a non-profit devoted to assisting in the education of family members of disabled or killed-in-action military service members. We’re also hosting
Dan for a reception honoring his non-profit, Folds of Honor. A special thanks to DOTmed for assisting with that reception.

DMBN: Attendance fell at RSNA this year. As a show organizer, do you see long-term trends affecting attendance? What are they and how are you adapting to them?
We are very bullish on long-term trends for face-to-face meetings. When Michael Eisner was CEO at Disney and the Internet was just starting to become more available, the same question was posed to him concerning Disney Parks. He responded that there is just something magical about face-to-face interaction that the Internet cannot and will not duplicate. He even predicted that technology would enhance those park visits and not diminish them. History has certainly proven him correct and we see the same trends with these Summits. But let me throw out one caveat. The experience matters more today than ever before — we’re being judged with stricter measurements of success so we have to produce outstanding events or attendees will find other ways to meet.

DMBN: Last year’s show was also in Orlando. How many spring summits have you hosted there? What about the place draws IDN?
Back to Disney, Walt had a vision for Orlando and it has certainly come to pass. Overwhelmingly from attendee surveys, we see that people like Orlando. We just ride the trend. Attendees tell us where they want to go and we follow. If the spring attendees feel they want another city, we’ll listen and move the Spring Summit.