The Future of Healthcare

I had the privilege of attending Fortune Brainstorm Health last week, an innovation conference working to bring together the best minds in Healthcare, Technology and Business to make a difference in healthcare.  The theme of this years conference was “Accelerating the Health Revolution.”  The topics were broad and thought provoking.  I found myself at the event wondering how I could do more on a day to day business to help.  Since the conference the question has only gotten louder in my mind.   In reflection, I think that the starting point is to write down my top observations after review of my notes.  Maybe this exercise will lead my somewhere…

  • There are amazing people who work in healthcare:  scientists, physicians, innovators and investors.  I met people brave enough to tackle life or death situations with a gusto every day that most of us don’t muster at our best moments.  People with an insatiable quest for learning.  These people provide me a great deal of hope for the future despite the rhetoric of politics.  
  • This conference reinforced my belief that healthcare is a fundamental human right.  You can often get lost in the public debate over healthcare finance, which is what most of the political conversations center around.  The media doesn’t help, covering the politics of healthcare, and grabbing on to often non-core issues.  This conference allowed me time to simplify it for myself.  All people deserve access to care.  In order to afford this as a country, investment must shift from treatment to prevention.  This will ultimately bend the cost curve.  That said, the reason to have health care for all isn’t economic, it is ethical.  
  • Despite what I said above, costs are a major problem.  As a nation, we over invest in late stage healthcare and under invest in prevention.  Dr. Sandro Galea, physician and currently Professor and Dean, School of Public Health at Boston University, made a compelling case for the investment in creating health versus treatment illness as our priority.  When ranked versus 17 peer countries, the US mortality rates are ranked #15 – 17 for all age groups under age 60 and we quickly rise to the lowest mortality rates in the world for over age 80.  We invest a large portion of our healthcare dollars into this treatment and it is what is incentivized by our healthcare payment system.  The alarming thing is that it doesn’t increase longevity.  
  • Healthcare is about so much more than clinical care.  We were joined at the conference by Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna.  He shared that  “Only 10% of life expectancy is driven by clinical care – 30% by genetic code, 20% by the social determinants of health, and 40% by lifestyle choices.”  Dr. Galea, who I mentioned above, spoke of this as well.  In follow up to his talk, I read a great piece he wrote last fall.  Within this article, you can also find the chart to support the mortality rate information I shared above.  Improving the health of our nation is as much about investments in our social infrastructure (e.g. education, clean water, public transportation, a living wage) as it is investment in medical advancements.  I feel incredibly lucky for the good fortune that my family has had.  
  • One of the best comments from the audience at the event was about hospitals and their role at the center of healthcare improvement. The quote was something like…”Isn’t it ironic that our healthcare system is hospital-centric? Particularly given that a trip to the hospital is the failure of care.” Prevention, prevention, prevention. Our role must be to influence behavior so that people do not reach the point of needing the hospital.  
  • Corporations have a critical role in improving healthcare.  It is the right thing to do to focus on employee health and wellness.  If moral responsibility doesn’t convince you, employees that are well – getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly – are more productive. The power of top-down leadership to drive a culture of wellbeing for our employees will be the pressure our healthcare system needs to evolve. On a side note, I crossed paths again with a former leader of mine, Chip Bergh, who is now the CEO of Levi Strauss. I remember his dedication to well being 20 years ago, and it was amazing to see his continued commitment to wellness as a driver of employee engagement and productivity. 
  • Fertility issues are a health crisis. The awareness of the breadth of fertility issues is low, and there is still a stigma to discussing these challenges.  A world-renowned fertility physician, Dr. John Zhang spoke about a controversial procedure (the three-parent baby) that he led last year.  It was a fascinating discussion, which prompted me to talk with him on a break.  We had a great conversation about this awareness issue.  His point…there is a Breast Cancer Awareness month, an MS walk, a Lymphoma/Leukemia organization all of which are doing great work to raise awareness of their disease, and funds to help reach a cure.  Yet, fertility issues are still taboo, unfunded, and impact over 6 million women in the US alone.  Fertility issues are reported to be as stressful as dealing with cancer for a family. Solutions are expensive, and the path to the solution is complex. Long-term this is decreasing wellbeing, and increasing costs within our healthcare system.  
  • Our company (CHG Healthcare) has a critical role in helping physicians to perform at their best.  With all of the challenges in healthcare, physicians are working harder, showing signs of stress and burnout and more focused on administrative tasks than ever (less time on patient care).  I sat next to a surgeon who said that given all of the electronic charting that she has to do, she sees about 40% less patients per day now than she used to.  Helping physicians to be successful and delivering to their maximum contributions well help save lives. 
  • Technology and data will be a propelling force for change.  Amazing people are investing in amazing things.  We got two live demonstrations that were particularly impressive.  The first, a matchstick size device that slides under the skin currently in development from Intarcia.  This device, combined with chemical innovation that allows medicine to stay good at 104 degrees for up to three years, enables medicine to be dispensed into the body automatically for up to a year post implementation.  Imagine chronic disease treatment improvements via increased drug compliance if this could be installed once a year in a less than a one minute procedure.  The second was a partnership between Tricog Health and GE Healthcare to provide EKG support to rural Indian clinics via a connection to the cloud for immediate diagnosis.  Both of these were amazing innovations, but just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could be.  
  • Genomics.  All I can say is wow.  This field is moving through years of progress in weeks and months.  To envision its role in the future is for people smarter than me.  Refer to the first point above. 
  • Finally, there are people in this world who are way braver than me. Two physicians, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia and Dr. Raj Panjabi discussed the Ebola breakout in 2014. They were both on the front lines of the disease in Africa.  Dr. Bhadelia spoke of the impact of global security decisions on their work on the ground. As a country, we were began acting with an “abundance of caution” and airlines stopping flying into this part of the world.  Although well intentioned, this created immediate supply issues for healthcare workers on the ground. At one point, she and her team were out of personal protective equipment and had to make the decision to either use tarps to cover themselves and go back to work, or to let more people die.  They went in with tarps.  The bravery that this requires is something that I cannot fathom. I leave this week with an even further appreciation of the difference healthcare providers make for patients every day.  

An amazing, thought-provoking event to say the least.  What do I do with it?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that we all have a role in the Future of Healthcare.  Whether as a consumer of care, the owner of our own personal health or as an activist for a cause, we are all leaders in this challenge.  That said, senior corporate executives have a unique role given their influence.  I will paraphrase (and adjust) a quote from Mark Bertolini:

“The role of a CEO (substitute any senior executive leader in my point of view) is the power to convene, and the power to set the agenda.”   – Mark Bertolini, Aetna

What Advice Would I Give My 24-Year Old Self?

Today I was doing an interview with someone about being a female leader in marketing and in the staffing industry and was asked an interesting question….what advice today would you give your 24-year old self?

Oh my.  Lot’s of advice, much of which is not mentionable on a blog titled “Marketing Meets Motherhood.”  As I reflected for a moment on this, I thought a lot about Joe Haynes.  Joe was my first boss at Procter & Gamble.  He was a Finance Manager when I was a Cost Analyst.  Joe taught me a lot, and in reflection was a very influential person in my own journey as a leader.

So, what was the advice I would give 24-year old self?  It was one of the lessons that Joe taught me – to be authentic and inquisitive.  Joe lived a life of authenticity.  From the day that I met him, he was who he was with no apologies.  He told me early on to be comfortable in what I know, ask questions about what I don’t, and always be good with either.  I wish at many points in my early career that I would have listened to him more.  When I finally learned that I should and I could do this, I became more comfortable in my own skin.

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It is a lesson that I wish that learned earlier, and often one that I need to remind myself of today.  Each time I either succeed or fail at being an authentic leader, and trust me there are both, I think of Joe.  We are rarely in touch today, but I imagine Joe, retired from P&G, living a life of authenticity.  He may not ever know how influential this was for me, or even that he said it.  Joe, I hope that our paths cross again.

Taking Pride in the Journey

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A few weeks ago, I heard Chris Warner speak.  Chris is one of America’s most renowned mountaineers having summited five of the worlds’ tallest peaks including both Everest and K2.  He also is an entrepreneur (the founder and President of Earth Treks, Inc.), publisher and speaker sharing the lessons that he has learned on leadership through his many expeditions.  In 2007, he led the Shared Summits expedition successfully summiting K2 and proceeded to produce an Emmy award-winning film about the expedition.

His message in his talk was a good one.  He spoke in reference to his journey to the top of K2. Other athletes on other teams abandoned some of their friends, didn’t help others succeed and even stole equipment from his team. Alternatively, his team’s approach was different. They helped others to succeed and stay safe. Some of these choices to help others along the way caused additional hardship to Chris’s team. But, in the end, they completed a successful climb that they are proud of until this day.  My favorite quotation was:

Don’t get to the top of the peak you are climbing and not be proud of the way that you got there. – Chris Warner

There are a few reasons why this resonated with me so much:

  1. Often times as a goal-oriented person, it can be easy to see my individual choices and actions as a means to achieve the end goal.  Instead, what I constantly have to remind myself is that the journey is what I will remember and learn from. It is what builds my life. Without remembering this, I can get too focused on the end and not enjoy the process of getting there.
  2. My gut instinct is so often right.  In my life, there have been moments where I didn’t feel good about a decision I made.  My gut often times was telling me in the moment to make a different decision, or to reverse my course.  Sometimes I listened, sometimes I didn’t. Luckily, these decisions were small and time passed with no consequence.  However, despite the lack of consequence, I have regretted not trusting my instinct and reversing my course if for nothing but the knowledge that it would’ve been the right thing to do.
  3. I only have one life to live.  How I live this life, or in Chris’s case how he climbed K2, is the ultimate reflection of my character. I try my hardest to do what is right at every turn, to make choices that I would be proud of my children knowing that I made.

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

  Yesterday I had the opporunity to attend two important events in the state of Utah.  The first was the Governor’s Economic Summit and the second was a private gathering for “Utah’s Wonder Women.”  Both events had a focus on women in leadership, and are committed to helping Utah move our state forward toward equality.

So much good going on in both of these forums, but my most memorable quote from the day came repeated at both of them:  “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See.”.  This was in reference to defining one of the roles that female leaders need to take both in Utah and around the world.  Often, without knowing it, we are role models to those around us.  In my case, listening to this made me proud of what I do, not because I have arrived at some place of achievement, but because I am showing my daughter and my son what is possible.

One of our guest speaker, Margit Wennmachers, a partner with Andreessen Horowitz, shared a story about how her daughter’s second grade class had the opportunity to Skype with a female college student in Germany who was studying to be a physicist.  Within weeks, four of the girls in the class had decided that when they grow up they want to become physicists too.  How amazing that exposure to something alone, puts the seed of an idea in childrens’ minds.  What a powerful example.

Sometimes, I look at myself and wonder if all of the stress and pressure, and a feeling of missing out on things in my kids’ lives, makes working worth it.  I love what I do.  But, I love my kids and Jon more.  After yesterday, I gained more realization that although it is, of couse, a trade off, I don’t work just for me.  I work for Katharine and Matthew, and for all of the other young women in my life…to help them see what they can be.

Words that Matter: The Definition of Strategy

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Maybe it is a pet-peeve, but one of the things that bugs me the most at work is the misuse of the word strategy.  As per Merriam-Websters, the short definition of strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.  In my experience, people in a business setting throw this word around in ways that isn’t helpful.  The misuse of the term drives confusion within their working team.  Here are five of the ways I heard this week alone, where strategy was used in a way that wasn’t what the person speaking intended.

1.  “You need to be more strategic.”  This week I heard one of my managers give this feedback about their direct report.  Having been on both sides of this conversation, I find this one of the most confusing pieces of feedback that you can give an individual.  To have a skill in strategy, my perspective is that it means you can develop and execute plans that aid the achievement of your long-term goals.  This leader didn’t mean that, although that may have been valide feedback as well.  What they truly meant was, this person doesn’t think big picture and thus the work that they are doing isn’t aligned with our strategy.  Be confusing the words, how is the individual on the other side of the feedback expected to know what to work on to improve the skill?

2.  “We need a strategy.”  This week at work, I heard this phrase used in a way that wasn’t clear.  I hear this as “we need a careful plan to achieve our goal.”  The problem is that the individual wasn’t talking about the plan, they were talking about the goal or the objective.  If you mean, “we need a goal” then say it.  If you ask for a strategy, you are asking for a plan to get the goal accomplished.

3.  “That is not strategically aligned.”  I love this statement as long as it is used with accuracy.  It truly helps an organization stay focused on the plan that they have created to achieve their goals.  That said, I heard someone use this during this week at work when what they were really intending to say was, “I am not aligned with our strategic plan.”  A small difference in words, but if they would have said this instead we could have more easily discussed and resolved that problem.

4.  “We need to be more strategic and less tactical.”  If you look up the word strategic in Merriam-Webster, a synonym is tactical.  All of these words come from military history.  Tactics are specific steps taken to achieve a military strategy.  Usually when people use this phrase in business, they mean that the broader plan isn’t clear but we are executing a lot of specifics.  Often times, saying this is an attempt to pull a team out of the specifics for a moment in order to reasses the broader plan to ensure that it is the right plan to meet the goals of the organization.

5.  “Our goals need to be more strategic.”  Goals or objectives are where you are aiming.  By definition, goals cannot be strategic, as the strategy is the plan it takes to achieve these goals.   Often times when someone says this phrase, what they are truly saying is that they don’t believe that the current goals are the right goals for the organization.  If that is what you mean, just say it.

None of these ways of using the word strategy or strategic are bad, as long as when said, it is what you truly mean.  Let’s not use the word to cover up what we truly mean and our organizations will continue to be more productive than they are without effective clarity.

The Art of Prioritization: One Small Choice At A Time

On the quest to find time for brain space at work, I have been ridiculously focused on prioritization. And, practice makes perfect….or at least makes things better. There is no easy way to become great at this overnight, but I am commited to continuously improving my skills.

The attempt this week is visualization.  As a former gymnast, one of the techniques that I would use prior to competing in a meet, literally right before I would be up for my routine, was visualization.  This is a simple step…closing my eyes, and picturing myself completing the perfect routine.  As a teenager, I thought this was a stupid task.  My coaches would insist on it, and half the time, I would close my eyes and start thinking about what I was going to do the next Saturday night.  Now, looking back on this training activity, it was a brilliant way to calm my mind and to focus on the outcome that I wanted to achieve.  Maybe if I would have realized this then, my gymnastics career woudn’t have been so average!  Nevermind on that, most of the average came from my athletic capability…nothing a visualization could change.

So, over the last week or so, I have been visualizing the things that I will dedicate my time and brain space to on my way to work.  A simple five minutes of quiet time in my car (don’t worry, no eyes closed), provides me a window to visualize what I want to accomplish with my day.  I find myself sorting through priorities, thinking about the problems I am trying to solve, and focusing on what I want to accomplish.  So far so good as I feel not only more relaxed as I head into the day, but also more focused on the tasks at hand, and willing to focus my calendar time towards the most important things for the day.

Is it sustainable?  We shall see.  Let’s hope it works better than it did for my gymnastics career.

Commitments: Help Utah Female Professionals Succeed

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Recently, my friend pointed me toward an article in the recent Utah Business magazine that gave the facts on the employment of women and men in Utah and their current wages.  The data was sourced to the U.S. Census Bureau 2008 – 2012 American Community Survey.  And, it made me sad.  Out of just over 1.2 million employed, civilian workers females made up 44.4% of the workforce and earned a median $20,053 per year (compared to males at $39,880).

In doing some follow up research, I got a lot more sad at the current state of affairs in Utah for female professionals.  It ultimately makes me worried for my daughter, wanting to figure out a way to help her lean to navigate the workforce reality.  USA Today stated in a recent article that Utah is the #1 worst state for women.  The methodology for their rating looks at wage gap, women in private company leadership, women in state legislature, poverty rate and infant mortality rate.  The article even noted that in Utah, women are holding less than 1 in 3 management positions.

I have been a resident of Utah for about 10 of the last 13 years.  I never thought I would live in Utah.  I met Jon at a wedding in Ohio, and I vividly remember him telling me he lived in Utah.  Utah?  I knew California, Las Vegas, Yellowstone and the Colorado rockies, but Utah?  Weren’t people from Utah either Mormon or ski bums?  Jon didn’t seem like either when I met him, so I went with it.  I was simply a love-struck 20 something, wondering more about where our next date weekend would be than the state of the workforce for female professionals.  I ultimately moved here, have fallen in love with the place, and have led about half of my 16 year career in the state.

Now, I consider myself a Utah local, a professional woman, and one of the apparently few female company executives in the state. I sit here thinking about how my role as a female executive can help drive change.  It is ironic to think this way, because I rarely, if ever, think about being a woman at work.  Over the years, I have come to work, tried my hardest to succeed every day, looked for opportunities to stretch myself, learned a lot, and ultimately tried not to take no for an answer.  By not defining myself using my gender, I have never seen professional boundaries.  This boundary-less world view has by its definition opened up my eyes to opportunities that I would otherwise never have seen.

I want to help, and take a purposeful role in making the future better in Utah for women.  But, I feel stuck.  Due to the fact that I am a working mother of two, and have the job that I have, I have little time to give to anything beyond my family and my job.  I feel guilty and sad to see this state of affairs and not be able to give more to help change it.  That said, this reality I live in of having to forcefully prioritize the time that I have, has been one of the things that has made me successful over the years.  So, my game plan is to help in the way my schedule and life allow.  I figured writing down a few commitments would help me to remember to stay accountable.

  • Raising strong-willed, independent children with Jon who see professional women as the norm;
  • Helping people in my team succeed as female professionals (in particular working moms);
  • Continue building a culture at CHG Healthcare where it is possible to be a successful working mom and a working dad;
  • Mentor people whenever I can find a spare moment helping to guide them through the choices that they need to make;
  • And, most importantly, never give up on my own dreams.  Shape them to be what I want them to be, not what others think is the right answer.

A short but important list that will hopefully help make a difference.

Time Study: How Do I Become More Productive?

I have been doing a little study of the way I run my calendar and how it correlates to my productivity and my energy level.  For the last eight weeks, I have been making notes throughout the week on my calendar relative to my feeling of productivity, how much energy I leave the office with to bring home to my family, and how effective I feel like I am as a coach and leader of my team. This week I looked back at the notes, and my calendar the days I took the notes, and decided to see what I could learn.

Some interesting facts:

  • I average 45 meetings per week.  Roughly 70% of these appointments are one to one coaching/status meetings with individuals, primarily in my marketing and sales team.
  • Although this pace sounds like it would drive most people crazy, it doesn’t stress me out.  It does stress my assistant out (who has to work to squeeze it all in).  This makes me chuckle because although I know maintaining the calendar is stressful, it shouldn’t stress her out more than me.  I am the one who actually has to live it!!
  • The highest number of meetings within a single week over the last eight weeks was 56 (ugh!).  And, that was the worst week of the bunch.  I ended up getting sick that week.  Don’t know if it was due to my over scheduling and lack of energy, or my kids bringing home daycare germs (or likely some combo of the two).  The thing I can say is that I don’t want another week like this any time soon.
  • The weeks that I have around 35 meetings or less, I feel like I am at least twice as effective in helping my team and feel generally happier with my life at home with my family.
  • If I add 30-90 minute breaks throughout the day (between meetings) it helps me a ton in replenishing my energy and creativity.  The best weeks are those where I have a Friday that has at least 2-3 hours of open time to clean up from the week, and a Monday morning with at least an hour of schedule planning time to prep myself.
  • Confirmed….it does take a lot of energy!

One of the more interesting observations during this not-so-scientific study was about how my calendar gives a good lens into my priorities.  My time is allocated on my work calendar where I place my priorities.  In the first two weeks of my study, I realized that I was spending too much time in technology meetings.  Although technology is important, and marketing technology is ever changing, did I really need 5+ hours a week regarding this topic?  Easy answer = no.  So, I adjusted my calendar (and thus my priorities) and changed it to about 1-2 hours a week.  I know that this may seem like a simple realization, but sometimes we get so busy “doing” the calendar that we lose site of “planning” our time.

On the bright side, I learned that I am pretty good at this, likely by necessity.  Ever since I have had kids, my ability to accomplish things in the time windows that I have (such as this 15 minutes I have to finish this blog post!), has ramped significantly.  There is simply more to do than there is time, so I must be productive and decisive.  I actively review my calendar daily looking ahead 3-5 days to make sure my time is scheduled where I want it to be, and where it can produce the most effective results.  I know that this may sound pretty obvious, but so many people on my team (and others I work with), don’t do this effectively.  Because of this lack of planning their time, they get sucked into things on their calendar that have low return on time (ROT – should I brand this?).

So for tonight, as I prep for the week ahead, changing my calendar around to create those 30 minute windows of time in my calendar to build energy and creativity, I figured I would share this with all of you.  I hope that it helps someone else become a little more effective, or at least not stress about what lies ahead.