The telephone, email, and the Internet keep me well-informed and connected, but there is nothing to equal the benefits of face to face meetings. As I consider my plans to cover upcoming events over the next few weeks, I am anticipating exposure to new ideas in the world of healthcare design.

I’ve covered a lot of conferences over the years and they have served as sources of expertise, wisdom, and new ways of thinking. Many are repeat events and I have a good idea of what to expect, but this spring my schedule has a new addition: TEDMED 2012. This gathering, whose acronym stands for technology, entertainment, design, and medicine, focuses on the future of health and medicine. And I have it on good authority that it is very different from any other event I’ve ever experienced.

The agenda is unique, with 11 sessions that are followed by social breaks across the three day event. With an estimated 1,300 attendees expected, the presentations will be supplemented with live nationwide simulcasts of every session, every speaker, and every performer.

Unique is also an apt description for the speaker list. There are names I would expect to see on such a list such as physician-geneticist Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health; Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer; and Lynda Chin, Chair, Department of Genomic Medicine & Scientific Director, Institute of Applied Cancer Science, MD Anderson Cancer Center. And there are many, many more.

But other names on the speaking roster convey more levity. Take Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, who plans to discuss, “When is "C" not good enough for me?” Or professional big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton who is slated to talk about, “Can you still hang 10 when you're pushing 40?” Or maybe singer-songwriter Jonathan Mann with the talk title, “What are 50 ways to leave your doctor…stumped?”

I’m assured this event will be an inspiring interaction of great minds. “It’s an environment designed to force you outside of your comfort zone and immerse yourself into thinking -- broadly and deeply,” says Margaret Alrutz, Director of Marketing, Nurture by Steelcase. “The far flung range of ideas and participants at TEDMED may not at first bring to mind the immediate issues of environment and design, but every conversation weaves a thread into the larger topic of systemic design thinking.”

Soon after TEDMED, the Environments for Aging(EFA) conference is on my agenda. I left last year’s EFA event inspired by the innovative and evidence-based work being applied to create attractive and functional living environments for the world’s aging population. And I’m expecting no less this year in Orlando.

By all accounts, I’m in for some serious brain stimulation this spring.