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Weekly Byte: Health Care Conferences
When I was asked to man the pMD booth at the ACC/Medaxiom Cardiology Conference in Orlando last week, my immediate reaction was "COOL!" followed by a sense of confusion. I'm a programmer, not a sales guy. Shouldn't someone from the sales team do this instead of me? What was I going to get out of this exactly? I eventually would come to learn the real benefits of having a developer at a conference - especially for myself.

Working with our customers every day, I’m exposed to groups who are already using pMD charge capture or are in the process of implementing our solution. During this conference though, speaking with potential customers was definitely eye opening.

At the booth, many doctors and practice managers came to talk to us. Some knew about our product and wanted to learn more, while others wanted to know "How DOES pMD make doctors happy?" And some just wanted some handmade candy that we were giving out. It was fun to speak with people who have a real need for our solution. As one doctor spoke to me about his paper charges, I could just see the frustration in his face as he discussed his day to day process. Another doctor brought up his grievances with his current electronic mobile solution. Reliability, or lack there of, was killing him. As I spoke with each new potential customer, I started to empathize more about their plight. They went to school to be a doctor, to help the sick, not to figure out how to bookkeep their activity. Seeing that pain versus just hearing about it was a big difference for me.

As a programmer, it's important to see and hear about how the work I'm doing is actually being used. Working at a defense contractor in the past, I can tell you first hand how dull and painful it is to wait a year to see your work finally do what it was intended to do. At the conference, we had a few of our own customers in attendance. When they came up to us, I had never met them before, but they were so open and willing to speak to the folks around us about how happy they were to use our product. It gave me that sense of accomplishment that I otherwise would not have gotten from behind my desk.

Speaking about the technical aspects of our application, interfaces, and overall utility I seemed to get an extra nod from those around me. My sales partner, Ryan, was more than equipped to speak about our software, but folks seemed to find an extra bit of worth in my words simply because I introduced myself as a developer. After the conference, Ryan expressed his joy at directing the technical questions to me. People just seemed to trust the technical answers from the technical person.

It was a great experience and I'm glad I did it. It was fun! As a developer, you work hard behind the scenes and it's difficult at times to remember the real life struggles that your product aims to solve. It’s reinforcement from all these doctors, directors, and nurses telling me about the pains of their existing system - paper, emails, and most interestingly to me, non-reliable software. I'm able to take this experience back with me with a rejuvenated sense of focus. I recommend to any developers out there to take a trip out to a conference. Not just to get out from behind your desk, but to meet the users that would or could benefit from your products. My sole regret from this trip was not being able to go to Disney World when I was only steps away!