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How Patients Can Show Us The Path to Better Healthcare Outcomes with Jack Barrette, CEO at Wego Health
Episode 96

Jack Barrette, CEO at Wego Health

How Patients Can Show Us The Path to Better Healthcare Outcome

Empowering patients to work alongside patient professionals or within side health care

How Patients Can Show Us The Path to Better Healthcare Outcomes with Jack Barrette, CEO at Wego Health

Episode 96

How Patients Can Show Us The Path to Better Healthcare Outcomes with Jack Barrette, CEO at Wego Health

How Patients Can Show Us The Path to Better Healthcare Outcomes with Jack Barrette, CEO at Wego Health

: [00:00:01] Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring healthcare leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez: [00:00:18] Outcomes rocket listeners, welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket where we chat with day’s most inspiring and successful health care leaders. I really want to thank you for tuning in today and I invite you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews so you could give us an Apple podcast review. You enjoyed what you listen to today or if you’ve just been enjoying it in general love hearing from our guests as well as our listeners. And so today I have an outstanding guest for you. His name is Jack Barrette. He is the CEO for WEGO Helme. He’s been in health care for quite some time but Wego health is a first online home for consumer health activists. Social media’s most active 10 percent passionate people about helping others lead healthier lives. He’s just done an incredible job of putting together his skills and technology as well as being at the forefront of all that is in health care to really create this amazing environment as well as a place where people can make an impact and get their voices heard. So what I want to do is open up the mike to jack so you could round up an introduction Jack welcome to the podcast.

Jack Barrette: [00:01:31] Thanks so great to be here. Yeah I have been in health care too long. As you said but Wego health is 10 years old this year which we’re proud of. We like to think of ourselves as a 10 year old startup but we now have over 125000 patient leader members of our network around the country and around the world. So good to be here today.

Saul Marquez: [00:01:48] Now that’s fantastic and you definitely done some major work to create a spark there for patient leaders. What got you into this business to begin with.

Jack Barrette: [00:01:58] I’ve been in healthcare Marketing Communications for my entire career. I was undergrad at Tufts and I actually my first job while I was still at Tufts I started working for a PR agency in Boston. And you know we had a number of different clients. Ira Pressley says about that when the Ringling Brothers circus was coming to town and come see the train full of animals and that was OK. And I went out and opened a hotel in the suburbs of Boston and we wrote about another Holiday Inn which is just crucial to mankind. But then I started doing work with the Tufts research Nutrition Center on Aging in Boston and I’ve met people who were there who were opposed to the health care professionals and the patients who were there who were not really interested in aging as it sees as a process. And I became fascinated and said Well this is something I could write about and I became passionate about it as a client spend way too many hours get in trouble for that. But since then I’ve always felt that she knew any about health talking about health is a passion for me at every level both personally and professionally.

Saul Marquez: [00:02:52] That’s awesome. And so really appreciate your passion it shows and hear hearing your voice. What is it about this space that intrigues you and how is your current company WEGO health tackling that.

Jack Barrette: [00:03:05] As always tribu about how curious is its complexity and how it always has felt like I think Esther Dyson called it a hairball at one point right that it’s there’s so much to cut through to get to the point where we’re actually just taking great care of patients and doing Herbet into focus on their wellbeing. An idea for acute disease treatment that there’s just so much to figure out but so many problems to solve and I love solving problems. So that has got me involved with a particular way to get at those problems. I believe that the answer to virtually every problem is patients and every question you asked about health care is like what. Where does it come back to patients and it’s instant to right. It’s that this is really a work force. It’s a passionate set of folks who are obviously the end users of house care but there’s so much more they can do so much more to fix what’s ailing health care but also to make it something that continues to reinforce why doctors couldn’t do it in the first place. For the joy of taking care of people. So for me that’s the fun part of solving problems in health care. There’s plenty to solve.

Saul Marquez: [00:04:00] Yeah for sure Jack and maybe you could dive into how Wego health actually works because I had a chance to go through it. I think it’s pretty cool but I want to the listeners to really get a feel for what you’re doing over there.

Jack Barrette: [00:04:12] Sure. Well as I said at the outset we do health is a core a network of hundred twenty five thousand now patients leaders the folks who were the most active and organically passionate patients in the health care space. So these are the 4 percent who create 80 percent of the content online for example in the influencer space and our job is to empower and embed them into health care so they can get at fixing all these problems and contribute meaningfully directly to the health care system. Our most recent product that we’re very excited about is we launched Wego health experts it’s a platform that matches companies directly with our patient leaders as freelancers. What I hope you don’t realize is that many patients had business lives before they got sick or even in the midst of a chronic illness they’ve also have tremendous business skills that can bring to the table. So by empowering patients to work alongside patient professionals or within side health care versus being just test subjects we think we can really fix a lot and that’s what we’re really focused on right now with our new platform WEGO health experts.

Saul Marquez: [00:05:09] I think that supercool Jack and what advice would you give to health care leaders today trying to engage with patients more help them.

Jack Barrette: [00:05:19] That’s really good question because it’s surprising how hard it feels to engage with patients who if you’re in healthcare you could probably make more money somewhere else. You could probably do something that was a little easier or helped you have more vacations but it’s still hard for people to connect with patients for real. And we spent a lot of time breaking through some of those barriers conscious and unconscious. Number one I would absolutely invite people to say treat patients as peers whenever you can find people who you see as peers and ask them to help solve real problems with you talking about problem solving a lot today. But that’s a lot of what folks are afraid of is I want to hear your story as a patient that’s important I want to be empathetic with you. But now I need to figure out how to get people through a discharge process faster. How can you help me with that. And a patient will give you prescriptive advice. How do I tell the world about the fourth new medicine on the market that may not be so exciting from a chemical perspective but for patients it’s about the dosing or it’s about something else that’s important to their community. So ask patients for prescriptive real world advice to solve your real problems and they will help you. They’ll show you the way they’re not afraid they would rather be treated as equals and as a test of yours.

Saul Marquez: [00:06:21] That’s really interesting Jack and I don’t know you’ve gone into any facility or any hospital looking to apply this advice. Have you seen this type of advice be applied.

Jack Barrette: [00:06:34] It’s interesting that the providers who the hospital companies have done a lot of patient satisfaction surveying that sort of thing but I see the CEOs said we’re partnering with the personal accredited Health Alliance which has now matched up with canted health and Partners HealthCare a CEO in the Boston area and that’s an organization that’s really looking at ways that they can build new devices with patients to solve problems or create a patient advisory board around saying adherence to therapy. So they’re going beyond the patients that survey that has been the ruler to say what how do we really get them inside and start fixing some things and that I think providers are where there’s a most impetus to get this done but it’s the rest of health care that also needs patients to solve problems are you if you build a new medical device or you’ve got to or you’re a digital health company how do you drive adoption so the patients will will not just look at it try it and then stay with it after 21 days. Most apps fail right most after your phone or the back screen up after three weeks. So how do you solve that patients while you do it.

Saul Marquez: [00:07:32] Jack, you are the ultimate patient advocate. And I think it’s so cool that you’ve decided to take this route and it’s super empowering because like you said as a patient you have a life and you have a you have a career and then all of a sudden you become a patient and it’s almost like you put on this cloak of like you’re no longer human. Sometimes.

Jack Barrette: [00:07:53] We like to we hear about flip the clinical out which is a cool concept. We talked about flipped a patient think first of what they know as a professional as a peer as someone who can contribute to your organization whether or not they were ill and then think of their chronic illness and their experience from the inside of healthcare as a credential doesn’t feel like a credential when you have asthma or or M.S. or diabetes but when you are working on a diabetes project and you’re also a project manager or a designer you bring a whole lot of passion and understanding and expertise that you can’t learn through a focus group.

Saul Marquez: [00:08:23] That’s so interesting and and listeners if you’re on a frontline or if you’re in a leadership capacity think about this you know it’s a small shift but small shifts could lead to pretty big things. I heard a stat somewhere. I don’t know what it is exactly but the percentage of patients that recover that feel that their physician had empathy toward them is much higher. And so what can you do to be more empathetic go beyond that. How can you see this patient as your peer.

Jack Barrette: [00:08:50] Exactly exactly and my doctor I’m lucky is Danny sands so I have is very unusually collaborative physician who you founded is now the executive chair of the Society for participatory medicine of which we’re also a proud sponsor. But for physicians to be able to look at patients as true collaborators to say you know go find this out for me go home and test this go home and look this up don’t come back with a stack of everything you think I should know. But let’s work together on your care. Make them your research staff. And I mean that in a in a collaborative way. Because that’s I think physicians can get back to the joy of practicing medicine where it’s not just basic training anymore because it can get that on the Internet. No one needs to have a definition of multiple sclerosis every wants to know what happens when it’s relapsing remitting. And I’ve had it for 12 years and that drug isn’t working anymore. Why is that happening. A good endocrinologist will work with folks to say this is this is how we address that is how we tackle that.

Saul Marquez: [00:09:39] For sure. Jack give me an example and the listeners of how you guys WEGO health have improved outcomes by doing what you do.

Jack Barrette: [00:09:48] I love that end point for so much of what we do and again I think it is bringing the voice of the patient not just as a voice but as a path to a better outcome is really what we pride ourselves in doing. We’re you know we’re a for profit company that looks like a nonprofit because we’re always driving this mission of embedding that patient leader in there to say Okay where are you trying to get from point A to Point B we’re the ones that are going to you. It’s called WEGO health because we talk about we go forward we make progress and we’re not a support group that discusses and and embraces and provides only emotional support which is so important. And there’s a lot of folks do everywhere. But how do we get to that outcome. How do we move forward. How do we make that progress. That means applying the right patients leaders and for us it means many cases vetting the folks who are ready to do the right kind of work right next to you as a peer health care system and providing that support for the healthcare system to get toward that outcome faster.

Saul Marquez: [00:10:39] I love that. And you mentioned Dr. Sand’s I had a chance to do practice with an MA at the conference and he had this crazy analogy that hasn’t left me and I will never leave me like that. Like the car wash the car wash of health care you know health care too much like a car wash you go in they spray healthcare on you and then you come out the other side and you’re going gonna have to come back and then spray more healthcare on you. Instead what Jack does. Wego help go together with your patients.

Jack Barrette: [00:11:06] And ask them to be the stewards of their own care and give them responsibility for that. I think we have to take patients that take responsibility as well for just letting someone else drive because you know I’m not paying necessarily directly I don’t quite understand how I pay my doctors and present it to me as the experts so I’m not going to participate. You need to step up and be a part of it and patient leaders have been really the role models for that right. Showing people this is what happens when you talk to your physician. What happens when you collaborate you actually get a better outcome. We did an interesting survey of our patients leaders. We asked them how happy are you with your physician and you expect what each of the influencers who are really smart self educated. There are are not gonna like their doctors because they think they know everything. They gave me nine out of ten on a net promoter score and we asked them why and they said well the first guy wasn’t listening to me so I went to another one and the second guy really didn’t understand the latest science so I went another one. But this guy’s fantastic. So what you find is that they knew how to find a physician who would collaborate and work with them and that’s why they were happy. It wasn’t the first position they bumped into was okay but a lot of patients do that. They will settle and they will find someone it’s like any other relationship they define some with a partner and have chemistry and make an app.

Saul Marquez: [00:12:15] Wow. Yeah that’s really cool. Tell us a little bit Jack about a time when you guys had a setback and what you learned about it.

Jack Barrette: [00:12:22] That’s a really good question that and good health is definitely a fail fast culture. Maybe not feel fast enough sometimes. We launched a Celebi called we go health TV about 4 or 5 years ago when video was just coming onto the scene and YouTube. Believe it or not still somewhat Naze and it wasn’t the second largest search engine in the world yet and we want to do Beaglehole TV as a channel for leaders to communicate with their audience and what we found was there are so many social media channels of communication channels from patient to patient that adding another one teaching to new technology early on. It’s just you’re not really understanding the workflow of the busy patient leader who’s running a community of in many cases tens of thousands of other people with lots of questions flying at them through lots of different channels that don’t need something else to do. They need another way to to be more effective and efficient if anything so I think the lesson we learned was Don’t get ahead of ourselves. Be sure that we really and I think that’s a lot of what medicine does sometimes is doesn’t respect though the workflow of the patient. And it’s one thing to say well you know take these pills seven times a day. Well that’s never going to work for me and I’ll be noncompliant as a patient. I don’t want to say that. So I’ll just kind of leave the office instead of it or something it doesn’t work perhaps quite as well and I’m baps concerns but I’ll give you something. I know you’ll take every day and mixing with the workflow understanding the audience you’re relating to not just from a patient to sedition basis but also even in business as we seek better outcomes say will the patients actually be able to do this along with the rest of their lives. As you said the carwashes or the car wash every day. Right. Once every couple of weeks but the rest of their lives go on to with them.

Saul Marquez: [00:13:58] Now that’s really interesting and I love your fail fast fail forward culture. I think that’s just the way that you’ve got to have that mentality to succeed in health care. Yeah absolutely. Give us an example of one of your proudest moments Jack in healthcare.

Jack Barrette: [00:14:12] I have to say that I am sitting in Washington D.C. at a hotel where we’re having the first live presentation of the Wigo Health Awards tonight. And for me after 10 years it’s a culmination of a lot of what we’ve done. We have these awards that are nominated and judged and chosen by the community to show their leaders that they appreciate them. And it’s nice to be talking to you on the night when this is the first time we’ll have done it in real life. Presentation they’ve been online. They’ve been they’ve been virtual for many years because our community largely is. But we have people from all over the world to Australia the UK and across the US who have flown in to receive their words tonight and for us it’s just it’s humbling and it’s honoring and to be it shows that patients are feeling an empowerment to step up and see each other and celebrate the progress we’ve made because we have made progress. The patients are involved others are not patients. That’s very true. Will always be true. But we’ve made great strides so I look at tonight as as a really proud moment I really look forward to it.

Saul Marquez: [00:15:06] That’s so amazing Jack and I feel privileged to be here with you today. I feel the energy and I don’t know how many people were there but I definitely feel the energy coming through.

Jack Barrette: [00:15:14] Well thanks. Yeah there’s a lot of folks here and it’s going to be it’s going to be exciting. Oscars.

Saul Marquez: [00:15:19] I love that. I love that. So tell us a little bit about an exciting project that you’re working on.

Jack Barrette: [00:15:24] Well one of things that we are we’re excited about is is we talked about that Wego have experts platform which makes it easy for people to find their way to a vetted patient who can help them on that peer level. And we recently partner with a personal health alliance as I said and what we’d love about that is those large organizations that have been working with Intel and the innovation labs as well as we did another partnership recently with startup health 200 portfolio companies and the coolest digital health space and we’re health Axelle which does a collaborative community of large and small players working together to solve problems and health in all of those organizations working with us are embedding patients directly into how they’re building collaboration within the industry so we’re excited about those partnerships because it gives patients a chance to be. I will say legitimized this this is a credible way for you to put people at the table with those big players who’ve paid to be a part of the organizations there. They see them as for moving and now those organizations said yes we want these patient leaders who are ready to get to work next to us at the table so that work of embedding our patients into the healthcare system to me is most exciting.

Saul Marquez: [00:16:29] I think that’s really interesting so if I have a condition and I need to go have a procedure done I just go to Wego health experts and then somehow get tied up with somebody that is an expert patient and I can get advice from them.

Jack Barrette: [00:16:46] Well we got the experts is actually almost more of a B2B platform where our job is to vet the patient leaders who are ready to do work right to be the X designer or to be a social content builder or to or to help you conduct your market research study and to find those people within the patient leaders and then allow you as a small organization or a large one or a huge one to hire them as freelancers. So really we’re building on that gig economy right where everyone hires freelancers real time up work or 5 or whatever it may be. But this is a very carefully vetted folks from our very large community who can work with you side by side. So if you were doing your dear example if you were looking to create a patient community around the change therapy for example and you wanted to have a support system that went around your online behavior change therapy program you might hire one of our folks to be the moderator of your community and to find other moderators as it grows or if you have a you have one condition area that you’re focusing on his organization you want to create contact a new one. You want to go from Ouray over to diabetes. You would hire diabetes Deedar on our site. Who’s ready to help you build that new capability. And they are reviewed and rated and they present their work expertise. Like any other professional would alongside their health credentials.

Saul Marquez: [00:17:54] That is super cool. And I think it’s really great because why not tap into the folks that know how to engage these populations that have happened or invent the wheel.

Jack Barrette: [00:18:04] What a really bad analogy used but everyone seems to understand it as you know. If you were making the Nelson Mandela story you would probably hire Jack Paret a white guy to play the part right. I would try and I would feel passion about it but I wouldn’t quite deliver that feeling. And why would you hire anyone other than a patient when you have side by side to professionals with the same expertise. One who’s been there lived that survived. And can deliver the passion at the same time.

Saul Marquez: [00:18:29] I think that’s so great Jack and kudos to you and your team for putting this together. It’s so creative.

Jack Barrette: [00:18:34] We’re really excited about we’ve gotten a lot of great response. We have over 200 companies in the platform since we launched in February with virtually no marketing. We have hundreds and hundreds of our of our experts are already as they are bringing people on slowly because we don’t have the marketplace imbalance of a lot more consultants and companies ready to hire them but it is growing very fast word is catching on. These new partnerships are really going to help us.

Saul Marquez: [00:18:55] Supercool. So Jack let’s pretend you and I are going to build a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in medicine today. It’s a one course or the ABC of Jack Barrette and so we’re going to write out a syllabus. There’s for questions in a lightning round fashion and then we’ll finish up with the book. You ready.

Jack Barrette: [00:19:13] Ok ready.

Saul Marquez: [00:19:14] All right. What’s the best way to improve healthcare outcomes.

Jack Barrette: [00:19:17] Best way is to engage and hire patients to be a part of your organization working alongside you.

Saul Marquez: [00:19:23] What is the biggest mistake or pitfalls to avoid.

Jack Barrette: [00:19:26] Biggest pitfall to avoid is to sit inside a room with other folks who are talking about or to patients without talking without having them there with you at your side. And as a theme your I can tell

Saul Marquez: [00:19:38] Yup how to stay relevant as an organization despite constant change.

Jack Barrette: [00:19:43] That’s absolutely a great question. We are causing looking at talking to our our own advisory board of fashion leaders and asking them where they see things happening what they do what shifts they feel and trying to stay ahead of that. And that means testing in the market getting out there and constantly asking the folks who are who are feeling what’s happening out there versus the folks who are writing about it necessarily.

Saul Marquez: [00:20:03] What’s one area of focus that should drive everything else in the organization.

Jack Barrette: [00:20:08] In the health care organization there. The only area of focus that should drive everything else of course is patient outcomes and hence your podcast. But the idea that that can become a platitude we make it something different. That putting patients to work alongside us feels like progress and gives us a sense that we are we’re able to be businesses and be proud of that we’re able to be a digital health company and be proud of me to prove our investors that we have a good idea as a business but also have patience alongside us that every day will remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Saul Marquez: [00:20:35] Jack amazing points here on the syllabus definitely of course I would take what book would you recommend to the listeners here.

Jack Barrette: [00:20:43] There’s a couple and I steal one from my previous guest of yours from Robin Farmanfarmaian whose name I just like to say but also who’s really good and wonderful about her patient as a CEO. It’s just a it’s a seminal you know kind of from her perspective because she also has that credential and clout of an angel investor and it’s a powerhouse entrepreneur and patient at the same time and that’s she bodies the movement that we’re talking about here in many ways is kind of one of those one of those touchstones are the patient leaders look at and that’s the kind of thing you should do so her book is terrific I love her book from a more general perspective. I love the power of habit which his a book has been a little while now but it starts to talk about at work flow concept of how do we habituate good health behaviors how do we make people healthier for the long term even people with very serious illness want to have a habit of being healthier and feeling better and how do you how do you encourage that through ways that are natural and support them with with other patients and patient expertise versus trying to preach that people once they fall this list or else. And I think that so understanding what habit means I think is called health care.

Saul Marquez: [00:21:44] I love it. Jack some great books there. I will have that power of habit. Definitely read patient as CEO Robbins. Just amazing like you said and kind of embodies what you’re doing there listeners don’t worry about writing these things down. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/barrette and that’s B A R R E T T E and you’ll be able to find all of the show notes as well as the links to Jack’s company and the books that he just recommended. Jack before we conclude I’d like for you to just share a closing thought and then the best place for the listeners could get ahold of you.

Jack Barrette: [00:22:19] Sure. With closing thought is that patients will always be the answer. And in many cases that means that they will give you the answers if you if you ask. And it has been something that’s kind of guided my company and my organization for ten years now. So when you worry about what to do when you’re kind of in one story I would tell us when we get it we’ll get a little ground down by you know clients being grumpy or this is market research study won’t quite close on time then will be due as we go out and have a meet up with our patient leaders and when we get a chance to talk with them and work with them and ask them questions they bring us back to why we’re doing what we do. So that’s that’s the thought I would close when when in doubt go with a group of patients they will they’ll reempower that way to get a hold of of WEGO Health as we go house wegohealth.com and from there you can leave after we get health experts platform as well where you go hire patient freelancers. It’s freed us up an account try it out look around and see the amazing people you can hire to work with you side by side today.

Saul Marquez: [00:23:11] Outstanding Jack hey just want to say thank you once again you guys are definitely focused on improving outcomes and so excited to see where this goes. It just it just keeps getting better and better every time you do something new.

Jack Barrette: [00:23:23] Thanks, Saul appreciate that. Time frames from you.

: [00:23:29] Thanks for listening to the outcomes rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.health for the show notes, resources, inspiration and so much more.

Recommended Book/s:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
The Patient as CEO: How Technology Empowers the Healthcare

The Best Way To Contact Jack:


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How Patients Can Show Us The Path to Better Healthcare Outcomes with Jack Barrette, CEO at Wego Health