By Shiran Isaacksz, Board President, Digital Health Canada – Different factors are cited as the reason professional associations in some sectors are experiencing a slight decline in membership. Conventional wisdom points a finger at the long-suffering millennials (members of the generation born between the early 1980s and late 1990s), claiming they aren’t joiners. Some say people in general don’t have time to spare for professional development in addition to work and personal commitments.
But it seems that neither of those statements applies to Canadian digital health professionals. Digital Health Canada is experiencing growth. Growth in Digital Health Canada membership (over 2,800 digital health professionals and climbing) and growth in Digital Health Canada event attendance: Vancouver’s annual ‘Ahead of the Curve’ conference space was filled to capacity, and attendance at ‘Driving the Future of Digital Health’ (Toronto, October 2019) doubled in its second year.
The e-Health conference is growing, too. Exhibit space at this year’s e-Health Conference and Tradeshow sold out quickly, and a number of new sponsors from a wide variety of sectors jumped on board early. This year’s robust conference program is the result of a higher-than-ever number of people submitting abstracts for consideration. Even the Canadian Health Informatics Award (CHIA) nomination submissions broke records this year.
So why is digital health bucking the supposed trend in association decline?
I think Digital Health Canada offers good value to members, and I know that development of new programs and services ((Regional Chapters, Education Resource Guide, new education delivery program) is a priority for the team that keeps the association running. Beyond that, I can think of three key reasons why Digital Health Canada is experiencing growth right now.
- The professional landscape in which we operate is unique. Perhaps more than any other industry today (except maybe the auto industry – self-driving cars are in our future), digital health and healthcare are undergoing rapid change and growth. None of us can predict what the landscape will look like in five or ten years. Joining a professional association is just a smart way to stay prepared in a world where change is constant and inevitable.
- We strive to make real connections in a digital world. Connecting face-to-face with peers in other regions can be hampered by time constraints and travel budgets, but it’s important that we learn from professionals facing similar innovation challenges and build on each other’s successes as we work toward improving healthcare for all Canadians. Digital Health Canada is introducing Regional Chapters (Atlantic Canada and BC to start) and smaller, local events to nurture strong professional networks across Canada.
- A rising number of ‘gig economy’ participants has created a need for a reliable space where independents can find the conversation and professional encouragement normally supplied by a steady group of co-workers. Digital Health Canada events like MeetUps, Breakfasts, and Half-day Conferences facilitate regular networking without taking a big bite out of a consultant’s schedule. Contributing in a Community of Action (another Digital Health Canada member benefit) offers collaborative work experience and the opportunity for self-promotion through publication.
It could be that these association researchers just aren’t asking the right questions. Instead of looking for reasons why people aren’t joining, we should look inward and ask what the association is doing for its members. Does it continue to offer value? Does it offer insight into the industry? Does it respond to member needs with updated programs and services?
Digital Health Canada has reinvented itself more than once in the last 40+ years and will continue to seek out programs that provide value to members throughout the 2019-2020 membership year. Digital Health Canada is poised for growth and willing to innovate in the face of change. Just like our members!
Why do you think your professional association is experiencing a growth phase? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.