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What You Need To Know About TEDMED 2012

Chris Seper (Cleveland, OH) —

What is TEDMED?

That’s an odd question, if you’re coming from the perspective the event has been around for years. But this is not last year’s TEDMED (it’s not as heavily associated with the thought-leadership series TED as you may think).

Last year, Priceline.com founder Jay Walker bought TEDMED for $25 million. The structure of the conference will largely be the same, but the goals will be different. Think of this event as more elegant, more aggressive and with hopes of being much more influential. When news broke last April, Walker said his goal is to “make TEDMED the medical equal to the World Economic Forum held in Davos.”

Tuesday begins version 1 of “TEDMED: Davos edition” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It will wrap up by Friday and roughly 1,500 people (myself included) will have their first taste of the new TEDMED. Here’s what to know and consider as the week goes by.

Who’s speaking? Director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, and the ebullient U.S. chief technology officer, Todd Park, are both there. So are volleyball star Gabby Reece and Cookie Monster. Add in the CEO of the American Red Cross and the founder of Duke University’s Center for Neuroengineering, and you get an idea of the audience that’s been assembled.

Talk titles include, “Can you bring a 3-D cadaver back to life on the Web?” and “Can we get 8 billion heartbeats on speed dial?”

Walker said TEDMED is a place to gather elite thinkers who wouldn’t otherwise connect to contribute to the future of medicine.

Want to see more? Organizers have partnered with major institutions to broadcast TEDMED via TEDMEDLive Webcasts in major auditoriums. TEDMED also has a mobile app meant for delegates, but it’s worth downloading if you’re curious.

Why does it matter? Because innovative thinking around healthcare is sorely needed, as is gathering the notoriously siloed healthcare ecosystem in one place. But, also, becoming the epicenter of innovation in the entire healthcare ecosystem provides you quite a bit of power.

More people across healthcare are vying for leadership in healthcare innovation (or at least contributing to the conversation). Mayo Clinic’s Transform conference is the most credible destination, but TEDMED could easily take that mantle. And then there are a handful of other upstart shows that have popped up in the last few years (count the Heath 2.0 conference series and MedCity’s new CONVERGE conference on that list).

Who’s attending? Hundreds of organizations are attending from scores of disciplines in and out of medicine. Here’s who is bringing a crowd.

  1. Washington Performing Arts Society: 29
  2. Cleveland Clinic: 28
  3. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: 27
  4. Mars, Incorporated: 22
  5. Siemens: 17
  6. Booz Allen Hamilton: 14
  7. Johnson & Johnson: 13
  8. Philips and Quest Diagnostics: 12
  9. GE, Traces and Step Afrika!: 11 each
  10. Johns Hopkins and The MITRE Corporation: 10 each

Not everyone loves Davos. Richard Saul Wurman, who created TEDMED, excoriated Walker and the new TEDMED approach when the sale was announced. He derisively called it a mega event that “is the antithesis” of what made TEDMED “unique and magical.”

No healthcare reform. Don’t expect many reference to “Obamacare.” The conference organizers say TEDMED is designed to “look beyond the limited horizon of the ‘medical crisis du jour’ and partisan political debates about the future of the healthcare system.”

Some TEDMED numbers.

  • $4,995: Price of an all-access ticket
  • 69: Number of TEDMED speakers
  • 30 hours, 15 minutes: Amount of exercise — including meditation, jogging, yoga and Eastern healing — scheduled at the event.
  • 30,000 to 50,000: Others expected to be watching TEDMED from auditoriums through TEDMEDLive.

Chris Seper is the CEO of MedCity Media, which publishes MedCity News, where this article first appeared. Chris is in Washington, DC this week, attending TEDMED.

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