There’s a conference styling itself as mini-TED for health care in New York next week. It’s called NextGen Health. There is of course a major EMR called NextGen Healthcare (owned by publicly traded QSII). You might imagine that there’s scope for some confusion between the two brand names, and you’d be right. But the tale of what’s transpired about that confusion is quite the melodrama. Read on and have your Friday chuckle.
Nextgen Health the conference is run by Ari Teman who also runs the Nextgen Charities conference. After he started planning the Nextgen Health conference, the other (bigger, richer, with the EMR) Nextgen asked him to stop using the same name and–when he refused–sued him for trademark infringement. Ho hum you say, happens every day. True, but then this gets more fun.
Saturday of last week, I got an email that was basically a press release saying that the CEO of QSI (the Nextgen EMR company) had been arrested that day for sending an emissary to conduct some kind of raid or home invasion on Ari Teman’s house. I paid attention partly because it was wacky news for the usually doudy EMR business and partly because I’d met Ari Teman at a function in NY the previous Monday. He’d invited himself to breakfast with me the next day where he told me lots about himself and how great his conference was going to be, and eventually asked for my & Health 2.0’s help in marketing it. You may suspect that meeting people who think their new thing is the greatest ever is not that unusual in my line of work, and you’d be right. So I took some of this with a grain of salt, but the line-up looked good and he had people I respect involved and so I agreed to look at a marketing deal.
Then the “press release” arrived about the “arrests” of QSI’s CEO, chief counsel, bottlewasher, dog and more, following the “raid” on Ari’s house while he was at the Aetna meeting at which I’d met him and I was speaking. The “release” was actually mostly a self-promotional piece for Ari and the conference (well, mostly about Ari who you may not realize is a “Jewish Federations of North America’s Jewish Community Hero of the Year“).
I did what any self-respecting lazy blogger would do and sent it to a real HIT industry gossip queen/journalist (Inga@HISTalk) to run down the truth. And the truth was, no arrests, but pretty soon afterwards QSI (the NextGen EMR company) got a real temporary restraining order against Ari stopping him spreading the story of the “arrests”.
At this point several people & organizations involved with aspects of the conference including the a couple of respected NYC-based organizations and consultants pulled out. (And I, THCB and Health 2.0 did not, ahem, follow up on our vague joint marketing proposal).
Undaunted Ari pushed ahead and put out a press release saying that communications giant Edelman (via its well known digital health media personality Shwen Gwee) was now “enabling” 150 small companies to exhibit. I connected with Shwen who was pretty perplexed by this. He told me that Ari called him, asked him for help, and told him other organizations were supporting (when in fact they’d pulled out). Instead of sending Shwen more details as Shwen thought was the next step, Ari sent out the press release with Edelman’s name on it.
I remain more than a bit puzzled. Is this just all a big ruse to publicize a conference? Are the speakers (including famous tweeting mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker) really showing up? Is the mHealth morning the next day going ahead without the people who organized it? Will the exhibit hall–at which apparently you can exhibit for the price of a ticket only–be teeming, or empty?
It’s certainly an unusual tale for the often colorless conference business, even if it’s not the way I’d usually do things. On the other hand, knowing as I do how hard it can be to run a successful conference, there’s a teeny piece of me secretly admiring Ari Teman for his chutzpah in doing absolutely whatever it takes to make his conference, at the least, newsworthy. I have to admit, it would almost be worth going along just to see what happens–and you can’t say that about many conferences.
And of course there’s a few people (including me) interested not just in the conference but in the April court date when the real truth about that restraining order, the home invasion, the trademark et al should come out!