Enabling Physician Leaders to Become Outstanding Business Leaders with Bob Sullivan, Founder at Astute Solutions

Enabling Physician Leaders to Become Outstanding Business Leaders with Bob Sullivan, Founder at Astute Solutions

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Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast where we chat with today's most successful and inspiring health leaders. I've got a treat for you all today. My guest. His name is Bob Sullivan. He's the founder and director of sales at Astute Solutions as the director of sales that Astute Solutions Bob is responsible for overall revenue growth of the company. Bob also worked closely with the other company functions providing guidance on business topics and training. He's a former general manager at Santa fi health responsible for overseeing all functions of the business including sales, account management, operations marketing, product management and engineering. He's an executive point of contact to senior health care leaders and he's served different leadership positions with Cerner Corporation for over 10 years. He comes of us with a broad range of expertise in I.T. as well as the operational functions of healthcare so I'm excited to have Bob on the podcast to dive into some of the hot topics that are on his mind and also on the minds of our listeners so Bob warm welcome to you. Anything that I missed in that introduction that you want to fill in?

Oh I have to say it is just a long ploy history and health care and health care leadership and looking forward to having this discussion.

Likewise Bob and so I would like to ask what is it that got you into the medical sector?

It is an interesting story because it was not on my radar when I was going through you know high school in undergrad. And what happened was I was a junior studying electrical engineering at the University of Iowa.

That's pretty cool.

And during that time I didn't really kind of know you know I still had two years left before I graduated. Just kind of looking and poking around different things. What happened was an executive from a Cerner Corporation came and spoke with us about Cerner's vision of changing healthcare through information technology. There was one fly in particular that really showed back that you know this was in the late 90s. It shows Cerner's development roadmap over the next number of years and how it could help that would help clinical staff more safely and more efficiently care for their patients. And at that point I knew that I wanted to make a difference in healthcare and that was really the tipping point for me. That one hour session from that executive completely turned my focus really for you know the remainder of my life. After I graduated I joined Cerner and really have been in the medical field ever since the,n working with clinicians hospital systems in a variety of ways direct patient care population health, patient engagement and clinical education.

That is so interesting Bob and listeners, he took anything from that number one Bob's passion about what he does and helping patients. And number two is you know that was a one hour presentation that one slide that really resonated with Bob. And as you all get out there and share evangelize the things that you're so passionate about. Keep that in mind because you never know when you'll be in that room and you'll touch that one person that will lead to a ripple effect of positive change. So keep that in mind you can be intentional about your presentations. Bob really appreciate you sharing that. That light bulb moment with us.

Yeah and it's one of those things I get back to college campuses not just from a recruiting standpoint but overall trying to get the message out whenever I can because of again, like you said, the change that made in my life.

That's so cool man. And it's really interesting that you're that you go back and then you try to touch these young up and coming leaders in their college campuses so they too can get inspired like you did. That's pretty awesome that you're that you're doing that so Bob you've had quite the array of experiences in health care your background as is electrical engineering. You're obviously very well grounded in this space what would you say today is a hot topic that needs to be on every medical leaders agenda and how are you guys addressing it at your organization today?

Yes it's interesting because this the organization that I know and love founded founded and am now running this is a little off the track from I.T. although their I.T. components but I'll kind of get into some background and really where I see the need and why we started this. Why and I started this organization. One of the things that I've seen and I've worked with if not hundreds of health systems across the country. Many don't provide fundamental business training to clinicians who are moving from direct patient care roles in the leadership positions, whether that be possible leadership even I.T. project leadership we see it a lot. Hustle's and health systems promote clinical staff of management and eventually leadership positions and as we're seeing this is becoming even more prevalent at senior levels where the CEO is no longer a finance or an operations background. But really you see physicians, nurses leaders and CEOs and senior level positions. Many health systems don't have a structured training plan in place to prepare those clinicians, in business leadership management is a very different path and takes a very different skill set from direct patient care. And what I've seen is really for health care organizations to run efficiently. The leaders need to have that kind of business skills in place so they can effectively manage their teams and organizations. And without that, any new initiative that's brought on won't be executed consistently across the organization. If you know a lot of nursing leaders they do have higher education. And what we've found is that if you look at a master's in nursing education, there is only maybe one or two courses that really deal with business principles. Some nurses are now looking to get in and are actually moving into the Masters of Business Administration. But if you will get back that you know a number of years to complete and there's many topics in there that really have no barriers and aren't applicable to their management roles. So really what we're looking at is how do you bridge that gap. There's a floor nurse or really any clinician we're be into a leadership position and really give that clinician the fundamental business skills they need to be successful they want. And so what we've developed is a three day seminar that helps new clinical leaders learn the fundamentals of that they never learned in school or on their day to day jobs caring for patients. So we train basically fundamental business tool. How to use Outlook and how to use Excel how to set a PowerPoint. Things are just kind of those fundamental building blocks. We train our leadership skills, meeting facilitation, conflict resolution. We do successful presentations. And lastly we train on career growth tools. Actually being able to use LinkedIn, building a professional network and one of the big things we've found is just the networking in the classes itself between new leaders that are really at the same spot in their career moving from direct patient care into leadership positions.

Bob I think you're hitting a huge need here and I love the practicality of what you offer. Bob what's the website that this little leaflet is on?

Yeah, www.aslns.com.

So Fogg's go to a s l an ass dot com and you'll pull up a little brochure I found that on on Bob's link then profile. So Bob Sullivan if you look them up on link then it's there too. But he sort of highlights this three day seminar where you can build your skills as a leader and if you're a clinical background and looking to get this immersion in business skills and leadership he's got Day 1, operational business skills. Day 2, leadership skills and Day 3, professional development. This is awesome Bob and you know I've had many discussions with physician leaders and folks across the provider spectrum and there's definitely a theme where they feel like their staff that does get promoted into these leadership positions needs and is craving for leadership training. So I think you're definitely on to something here Bob. Can you tell us a little bit about how folks that have gone through your training have created better outcomes and results for their organizations?

Yes definitely. So we've delivered a number of these sessions to different groups of political leaders so currently we really focus on selling to a hospital or hospital system that been bringing classes through also just as a side note we're getting our C.U. accreditation as an organization. What are classes today or C.U. accredited so any classes that go through. Also they are checking the box of those continuing education hours. So we have exit surveys and then we also do surveys 30 60 or 90 days after the sessions have been completed. We're seeing great survey results for the students and their direct supervisors really noticing you know increase in productivity really. More importantly accountability as the new leader uses the skills that they learn in the session. Some specifics is across the hospitals that have taken our classes and we're seeing a 30 percent reduction in turnover of the leaders of taking the class versus those have not nursing turnover is not just an issue at the floor nurse or project provider level but even up in the leadership you see folks that you know might not be well equipped in a leadership position and might even go back to foreigners. So we're doing some actual data analysis on that. The early results are around 30 percent reduction in turnover on those students that have taken the class. Another specific outcome received is one health system out-used was able to shorten the weekly staff meetings across the organization by more than 15 minutes because the leaders can now effectively facilitate those meetings and cut down on a lot of the wasted time that happens in weekly staff meetings. We actually save the organization over 100 hours of staff time every single week just by more effective ways facilitating those staff meetings.

So awesome Bob. That's awesome. The numbers are great and if you're a leader listening to this provider leader start thinking about what it is you could do to implement some of these very simple things that your teams can implement and learn from Bob and his team and the, I mean for me if I could do something like a three day seminar to reduce my turnover by 30 percent I'm signing up. That's huge.

One of the things that we attribute there as I mentioned briefly before is I really feel it's a lot of times and be going from you know just drive business into leadership and the senior leadership is it can be lonely and isolated because now you're you know used to be working with you know your team on the floor and now you're having to manage that team. And one of the big things that we've just seen as a class is the cohesiveness of the leaders that might not really know each other very well. It could be a different units even different campuses, really game to interact and build that professional network. And that's really what I attribute one of it is not just the hard skills that we're teaching but taking clinicians are really the students through an experience together that really binds them stronger than just maybe seeing someone in the hall or in the cafe.

Yes that's so awesome Bob you know. And you know a lot of these these very talented providers definitely are craving what you're offering in their education. There's definitely a gap in leadership and business gap and you guys are doing a nice job of filling that in. Can you walk us through a time when maybe in your career or in this particular business that you started you had a set back and what you learned from that? A business lesson?

I think of a pretty good one and actually it's related to this as we are getting this company started. So when we were first starting this a mentor of mine told me very specifically to make sure that we deliver these classes offsite or else the students or the attendees will be distracted with their normal operations and potentially not fully involved in the class. And one of the things I just mentioned before is you really need that dynamic where people interact in together and anything that might set that back really changes the class. And what ended up happening is one of the first clients pushed me to have the class at the hospital itself and I conceded because I wanted to deliver the class and they really wouldn't. They weren't accommodating offsite. There has to be a hospital. So I ended up conceding it was early on and what happened was I was actually there delivering a presentation right in the middle of it a number of class members left to attend a hospital meeting whereas if they were offside they would have potentially canceled the meeting and are just not gone. And what happened was I was in the middle of delivering something I was extremely passionate about. It was actually doing good presentations and I did watch as part of the class literally walked out.

Wow, that's tough.

It also hurt the dynamic for the rest that stayed. And so really at that moment I realized you know I should've listened to a mentor. He has experience in change strategy and change management and it was one of those piece of advice good advice that I didn't take just to deliver an extra class system to without seeing you through best practice. Since then we've only delivered classes offsite location even if it's across the street, right? to something and get the attendees out of their day to day. And really we've had no issues around participation or anything like that. So if anything it was one that I saw firsthand very specifically that we then corrected moving forward is we either find a meeting place or find even someplace close but just get the group out of the day to day. And let's focus on those learning maneuvers business skills and really again networking with peers.

And it's so such a valuable lesson Bob. And it sounds like you're moving forward not doing an on site anymore.

Right. Learn it learn from it. Right.

Yeah. Yeah that's great. And you know just thinking through some of the things that that you all are doing in your efforts to take your organizations to the next level. Let's learn from Bob and what his mentor taught him is that if you take your group or your team away from the day to day, it really makes a big difference. I've done events for my teams to help just reshape or redirect our strategy. And boy does it help to do it away from the day to day. And I also have a policy where and it's tough but we do it we put our cell phones in a bag and we and we throw it into a drawer. And boy people are itching at first and it's kind of like you get this digital twitch but the engagement goes up. And so it's it's up to you what direction you decide to take. But the advice that Bob just offered us here is critical. Bob thank you for that.

It's funny I have to say. We do the same thing with phones and computers and one of the things was the Leadership Conference I went to a while back myself or I was having the same problems that you were talking about putting my cell phone away. We made the point of you go on vacation every now and again right. Don't have cell phone. Just think of it that way like they just take a vacation from your work even though you're learning and growing professionally. Just more think it was a vacation night. You're missing a client week of work.

Love it. That's a great way to put it man. So that was a lesson learned from a meeting that they didn't go so well. One of your most proud medical leadership experiences Bob. You had a lot of experience and great things that you've done in health care. What's one of the proudest ones?

Yeah. So I'm going to go back to when I was an executive at Cerner. I was the executive the senior executive over us implementing the CERN really tight medical record at extremely large rehab facility. The client actually went from all paper so they were one that didn't have anything in place to fully electronic in a pretty short timeframe. So it wasn't they had an older system that they were operating. It was everything paper to everything electronic. And you know there were there were challenges throughout the entire implementation change management things like that and what hassle was soon after the conversion. I rounded with one of the rehab physicians and watch them use the system and the look on his face you know especially somebody that was has always documented hate on paper movies electronic in what he was ecstatic about was not about the documentation and put it in the computer. But really that his documentation could be seen across all the functions that touch a patient because especially in inpatient rehab PC OT's speech. I mean just you have all these different groups coordinating with the same patient. Very specifically schedules things like that. And so he was ecstatic that everyone could be the patient record all the way through billing . And he explained how much time it could save him just in the reduction of duplicate documentation. And to me it's one of those that was you know life moment to him. There was a lot of work, a large team effort both from my team side at Cerner and the client team coming together to deliver this solution. And just his use of the system and his explanation of benefits made that entire you know let's say your long journey worthwhile. It was one of my proudest moments of seeing that from beginning all the way through and actually getting his direct feedback.

That's exciting. That's exciting Bob and it's kind of like you know full circle right you start on a slide and there you are implementing it.

Right.

That's so great.

And that's one of those two it's you know some of this when I've been talking to other groups is it's not just nurses who are just a clinical to floor leadership with these large I.T. projects and other initiatives. These kind of skills we kind of train them ad hoc. We train the clinicians ad hoc through that process. I'm also starting to think about how can we even help those type of processes because these large I.T. projects are not going away anytime soon. And if anything there's going to be more clinician involvement in them in the future. There should be.

Yeah yeah that's a really great point. You know and maybe even having some specialized EMR implementation leadership things like that I'm sure would resonate within what you're doing now. Bob what would you say is the most exciting part of which are working on?

Really when it comes down to it from an excitement standpoint it's getting in front of the new clinical leaders. I'm still heavily involved in the training aspect as well just being able to see their eyes light up of OK I can use this tomorrow. You know I have been struggling with this and now I have a solution or somewhere to get started. To me is really driving that. That's what drives me and gets me up every single day. To continue to grow this. A newer project that we're working on is that you know there is a lot of organizations that offer different type of seminars and different type of leadership development courses and I'm actively working with some of these different organizations to really look at moving beyond this three day seminar is extremely valuable for new clinical leaders. But looking at expanding the offering and using you know other leadership programs and standard content to say okay let's actually put not just you know a new manager training in place but actually you know leadership academies, specialize offering like a three day summit are just presentations. Some of those other things are really to offer a more holistic view of leadership as we work with our client partners. So it's one of my main focus is here is just trying or look in the right way to expand the offering as kind of a next step. Okay. You've taken the intro 3 day course. Okay. What are you focused on now or are you delivering a lot of presentations or facilitating many meeting. How what's a good way to keep building on those skills.

That's outstanding Bob again listeners Bob Sullivan with Astute Solutions working to get clinicians the business savvy and leadership skills needed to lead today's health care systems. Super super work being done by this group. You could check them out at www.aslns.com. Check out what they offer. Bob we're here getting close to the end. Let's pretend you and I are building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in the business of medicine today. It's the 101 of Bob Sullivan. So we're going to write out a syllabus. I've got four questions for you lightning round style followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners, you ready?

Yes.

Awesome. What's the best way to improve healthcare outcomes?

Is to make sure everyone in the organization understands and is following best practice protocols on with accountability at all levels.

What's the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

I always go with developing a new best practice or protocol without also implementing the standards around it to make sure that followed consistently throughout the organization.

Solid. How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

Change is inevitable even especially in the health care industry. It's hard but I would say follow the authors of the literature on best practice. What peers and what what other organizations are doing and also look at have a focus and look at where government regulations are headed and make sure that the entire organization from leadership all the way down incorporates the knowledge into their day to day practice.

And what's one area of focus set should drive everything in a health organization?

The focus in the end needs to be the best care for the patient at the right time with the best clinical outcomes. I mean in the end that's what health care I mean. But my take on healthcare should be about including protocols and best practices in place really in the end drives better patient outcomes.

What book would you recommend for the listeners Bob?

No I'm a pretty big bookworm so thinking I'm just working through this probably the most enlightening book I've ever read is called Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. The book goes into in depth about how people make decisions. I've read it many many times and it's always been helpful. Analyzing the decisions I make and making sure I'm making them for the right reasons and I'm making the best decisions I can.

Love it. That book's been recommended a couple of times now. So listeners if you haven't read it definitely one that you'll want to check out trunking Fast Thinking Slow got Bob Sullivan here from a Stewart care solutions. All the things that we talked about today are available the transcript, links to Bob's company everything that he's doing to help clinicians become better leaders and business people. You could find all that information and outcomesrocket.health/astute. A S T U T E. Bob this has been a ton of fun. I've really enjoyed talking about this topic with you. Leadership and business skills for clinicians if you can. I'd love if you could just share a closing thought. And then the best place for the listeners can get in touch with you.

Yeah definitely. For everyone I would say make sure that however it is. Make sure you invest in your employees especially when they're most vulnerable like when transitioning could career focused any of the money spent will be paid back 100 fold in increased productivity increase, patient satisfaction and decrease turnover. My email is bob@aslns.com if you need to get a hold of me.

Outstanding. This has been a ton of fun. I think that you guys are doing some great things to build the future leaders within clinician's. So I just want to say thank you again for spending time with us. Looking forward to seeing how you guys continue to to grow your business and impact healthcare in a positive way.

Thank you for having me.

Thanks tuning in to the outcomes rocket podcast. If you want the show notes, inspiration, transcripts, and everything that we talked about on this episode just go to outcomesrocket.health. And again don't forget to check out the amazing healthcare thinkathon where we could get together to form the blueprint for the future of healthcare. You can find more information on that and how to get involved in our theme which is implementation is innovation. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference that's outcomesrocket.health/conference and be one of the 200 that will participate. Looking forward to seeing you there.

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Recommended Book:

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Best Way to Contact Bob:

LinkedIn: Bob Sullivan

Email: bob@aslns.com

Mentioned Link:

Astute Solutions

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