How to Strengthen Your Corporate Message in Healthcare with Ben Fox, Communications & Public Affairs Executive at GE Healthcare

How to Strengthen Your Corporate Message in Healthcare with Ben Fox, Communications & Public Affairs Executive at GE Healthcare

Hey Outcomes Rocket friends, thanks for tuning in to the podcast once again. As a leader in health care, you have big ideas great products, a story to tell, and are looking for ways to improve your reach and scale your business. However there's one tiny problem. Health care is tough to navigate and the typical sales cycle is low. That's why you should consider starting your own podcast as part of your sales and marketing strategy. At the Outcomes Rocket, I've been able to reach thousands of people every single month that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach if I had not started my podcast. Having this organic reach enables me to get the feedback necessary to create a podcast that delivers value that you are looking for. And the same thing goes if you start a podcast for what you could learn from your customers. The best thing about podcasting in healthcare is that we are currently at the ground level, meaning that the number of people in healthcare listening to podcasts is small but growing rapidly. I put together a free checklist for you to check out the steps on what it takes to create your own podcast. You could find that at outcomesrocket.health/podcast. Check it out today and find a new way to leverage the sales, marketing and outcomes of your business. That's outcomesrocket.health/podcast.

Welcome back once again to the outcomes racket podcast for we chat with today's most successful and inspiring health leaders. Today I have Ben Fox with me and we're going to be diving into some of the concepts of communications within healthcare. Things you got to consider and things that you should be thinking about. Ben is a senior director of Global Communications at GE healthcare. He manages two verticals. One that does nine billion and the other that does five billion dollars in business and his focus and his career has has been in communications for a long time external relations. And it's a pleasure to be able to touch base with him on this area focus so Ben, it's a pleasure to have you on.

Pleasure is all mine Saul, thanks.

Absolutely. Now did I miss anything in that intro that you wanted to share with the listeners?

Not really it was a very kind intro. I think I'm really excited to join the podcast today. I look back at sort of my own listening entertainment choices over the last five years and I would say podcasts have slowly risen up the charts to the point where in my daily commute I seldom turn the radio on anymore. It's mainly just podcasts back and forth there so I think this is a medium that meets demand and one that obviously is growing right now.

Yeah totally agree with you Ben. And I mean nowadays you can choose what to listen to and radio you sort of just get spoon fed whatever comes out. So I couldn't agree with you more. So you could have done communications and any area but you decided to focus on the medical sector why did you decide that?

It's a little bit of a roundabout story saw I would say one health care is in my DNA. My mother, my father-in-law, sisters, they're all nurses all in health care and I never really felt pulled into the clinical side of health care. I would say I feel very fulfilled and very purpose driven to be part of the industry and just a few steps away from that patient care that my relatives are in. But no I didn't really go to school planning to be in health care communications after grad school where I majored and got a master's in international relations. I jumped right into political communications and part of that was dealing with the Department of Health and Human Services and the equivalence of the state level where I served. But long story short After that stint in political comms I jumped into health care at GE Healthcare here and have been here for seven and a half years.

Amazing. You had quite the ride over there. Ben, you've seen a lot of the innovative approaches and sort of the ride that you go on when you're with a large medical device manufacturer like G. But when it gets to communications, I feel like there's a lot of common denominators whether you be a provider whether you be a med device company or pharma or digital firm for that matter. I love to hear your thoughts on what you believe a hot topic within communication needs to be for the listeners. What could they do to do a better job of their communication?

It's a very good question I guess to answer that. I'll start at the macro level and then work myself down to sort of a more personal micro level and I'll start with the cliche and that cliché being I'd argue that health care as an industry is still very much stuck in silo mentality. It's not a new argument. I think when you look at the pain points in healthcare as you've talked about on your podcast before Saul. Unsustainable cost increases, lack of access, EMR, EHR integration, destroying and care plans when it comes to diagnosis or treatment or planning. That's where the opportunities in healthcare. Basically, a disconnected healthcare industry. That's what GEhealth care here we call that precision health and that's sort of where we're moving in the future and simply put I would call, I would describe precision health as ensuring that the right actions are taken at the right time for each and every patient and that enables better cost of better care over cost. It enables better care for more people and enables better care in a lot of different care settings. Maybe some that were not completely used to. I think that means also connecting across the care continuum. That means going from diagnosis to treatment to monitoring it means mixing merging biotech medical imaging were GE health care plays really strongly and monitoring tools. So that's your hardware or your software and even your wetware sort of the data and your DNA all in one smooth sort of pathway, no silos that's the cliche. I think granular invading down a little bit. I would say personally I look at the way I interact with my bank maybe my insurance company and my realtor even how I go about traveling. What I do for entertainment. You know all that over the last decade has completely shifted very obviously for many if not all of us. It's all digital now. It's all at the touch of a button. Honestly my phone does more than my first computer job ever did. It's incredible but then you get into the health care experience and too often not all the time but too often there's still you know not taking on an actual pieces of paper. There's disconnection. There's paper forms as waiting rooms there's mysterious delays and questionable costs. There's even bureaucracy. I think healthcare is ripe for change. It's a common argument against seeing it my own life. I would say that's sort of the hot topics that GE Healthcare and others obviously are looking at.

For sure couldn't agree with you more. There's definitely some big opportunities to drive an end and make it better. And Ben what would you say right now as an example of what you and your organization have done to improve outcomes and do things differently?

That's a question a PR guy like me loves. I could probably talk for a straight hour about this. You know I can think of pocket sized ultrasound that GE Healthcare makes that help makes medical diagnosis more convenient faster more accessible to every corner of the globe. I could talk about our new mammography offerings which actually put a remote control in the hands of patients and help sort of address some of that discomfort that mammography is often associated with. What I think I want to focus on one and it's a fairly new one and it's called what we call here at GE the command center and it gets back to this idea of challenging the silos in healthcare that we talked about earlier. So set the stage a little bit for these command centers first understood fact U.S. and even international healthcare systems face massive challenges when it comes to cost, access, chronic diseases aging populations, et cetera. And if you look at finding ways to address that challenge improving the efficiency, part of the challenge there is congestion in our healthcare system and specifically congestion in hospitals and health systems, traffic jams to put it bluntly. no what some of the leading health institutions are starting to do and is partnering with many of these is look at transforming how they take these traffic jams how they manage these complex hospital processes and basically redesign patient flow and create and integrate a predictive command center. I think of it like sort of a NASA control room and we've all got this idea of sort of a massive room. Houston we have a problem where you've got hundreds of monitors hundreds of screens with experts there on-call to address basically the biggest questions of the day. Now John Hopkins, Johns Hopkins is doing this with GE right now. And they did it's interesting results already their emergency department bad assignment. One of the traffic jams they were having has been reduced since we put in this command center an actual physical room to address this and they've also seen hospital occupancy admissions. All those are getting better. Now patients I would say just make the point that they don't necessarily see the impact of a command center. They don't walk through it on their tour. They are going through the Edye or come in for a procedure. But they feel the impact and they feel it because the team working behind the scenes gets them into the hospital faster gets them in the right bed faster, gets them the right treatment, the right appointments with doctors faster and basically at the end of the day gets them out the door faster. Because as you know hospitals health systems in the U.S. especially are becoming cost centers not profit centers necessarily and the goal is to get a patient better faster and out the door not to linger in the hospital. So we're doing a bunch of these command centers around the country here in the U.S. at least Oregon Florida even Canada up north of the border there and then obviously Johns Hopkins that I mentioned. And we think it's one of those ways to look beyond silos look at a cross system approach and actually address the pain point that hospitals are saying is one of them and frustrations.

You know what. That's super cool band that you guys are focused on and this area of workflow. Because it certainly is as an issue in the healthcare system and just as we as we take a look at med device companies period definitely call out is how can you partner with your customer being the number one the health care providers. But to the consumer to deliver better care and Ben's example of these centers is such a great opportunity to add value to physicians and clinicians that are experiencing this burnout. Right. I mean we hear constantly. So kudos to you and your team man for the work that you guys are doing with this.

Yeah it's exciting stuff and it's something we're seeing actually sort of similar to technology adoption across leading institutions, we're seeing in places like Johns Hopkins doing this successfully getting some metrics, getting patient satisfaction scores of clinical satisfaction scores up and it's sort of spreading. Right. It's one of those things that spreads in a good way unlike a disease. But I think command centers or that idea of crossing your platform and really looking at those workflow questions at a macro level are going to be big in the next stage of healthcare absolutely.

Yeah that's so interesting. Now talk to me about a time when you have made a mistake or have had a setback. What did you learn from that?

Oh boy I think you saw I guess I'll go back early in my career and this is before I joined GE Healthcare I was right out of grad school fairly wet behind the ears and eager. I think like a lot of folks early out of school and early professionally to make a good impression, I would say back then one thing I lacked was that good sense around balancing my work life and my life life and my personal life. I think early on I felt pressured and maybe I pressured myself to work longer hours probably the necessary to basically defined myself by my profession. And I think that can create some good opportunities in the short run. But I think long term it was definitely a mistake on my part. I think of it like a we'll sort of and this is something I remember my dad sort of drilling into me as a youngster. He would say you know your life has has a lot of spokes in it right you've got your your professional life, your academic life, your social life, your family, your physical side of your life, your spiritual side and all those spokes are part of a wheel and if one is too long or you're focusing on one or two of those and not on the others your wheel gets out of balance and it basically what roll while. And I would say early on in my career my mistakes so was getting my wheel out of balance and probably overfocusing my life and work to say that it sounds like one of those interview questions you should never answer saying I work too hard. That's my failing right. But I would say this actually did do damage and it was a mistake and I think for a very patient wife in those times and sort of learning from good mentors I found that putting that much emphasis on work was probably not healthy in a lot of ways and having a good personal life and a solid and fulfilling life life actually helps sooner professional life. So that's sort of a lesson learned early on and probably a lesson that that all of us need to learn in the professional world.

And I am glad you bring that out because it's important in the healthcare space. We're working to help others with their health. When you don't have a solid health base it's a problem you know and a lot of thing that happened from not spending time in this space could be you know marital stress or financial stress or any other stressors that could lead to a deterioration of your health or lack of sleep. Super important that we focus on these and so I am glad that you brought it up. Is there any particular practice that now you do in order to help remind yourself to keep focusing on that life spoke as he as he said it?

You know I think you know several several folks I know try to turn maybe off their work phone or don't answer e-mails after a certain time at night. That can be a little tricky and in a global company. And when you have a global remit. So I definitely can't or don't do that. What I would say is I try to make substantial and sort of purpose driven commitments outside of work and that can be as simple as coaching one of my kid's soccer teams. Every every fall and making sure I'm I'm reading next to my teenage daughter and trying to at least keep an eye on the titles she's reading and make sure that I spend quality time with her. I think it's just being purposeful and your commitments and realizing there is a ton out there aside from work and actually engaging in those things helps you or helps your work focus quite a bit from me at least.

Love that been it for you man is a great great work that you're doing there professionally and personally. So now that you're sort of focused on this global business what would you say one of the most proud leadership experiences you've had to date with the business.

Yeah that's a good one I think a point to one that is health care one of our businesses makes maternal infant care products and those can be anything from infant warmers to incubators to basically life support systems for a prematurely born infant. And that's one of the most vulnerable I would say moments in the health care experience for any parent who's experienced that I have not had that experience and have known a lot of people who have and frankly what has been one of the most proud moments for me and for our entire team here is when somebody on staff has to go through that. And part of going through that you realize the products you're making the products you are talking about the products frankly that you are in solutions you're selling into the healthcare system are actually part of life and death decisions, are helping clinicians save lives and improve these incredibly small little infants who who don't have the greatest odds in your systems are actually increasing those odds. I think it's one of those moments you can sort of say I'm going to go into work tomorrow was there with a renewed energy, with a renewed purpose and say OK this matters. And you know a doctor a nurse any type of caregiver like that can probably have that driving force every day. I think when you separate yourself and join a vendor like free health care finding those moments where health care or the gimana monogram is on an infant incubator that has saved the life of a prematurely born infant. And it's the a child of a co-worker you go to work everyday with. That's a pretty proud moment it's not a it's not a revenue number it's not an operating profits statistic. It's not a growth rate. It's not anything like that but it's real it's personal it's tangible and it's really impactful.

Absolutely. Ben and it brings it home you know when somebody close to you if it's not you experience has the benefits of that.

Absolutely.

So tell us about an exciting project or focus that you're working on today?

So the incredibly gargantuan project that sits on the horizon for me and for all frankly the health care right now flows from GEC you know John Flannery. His announcement about a month ago that they intend to make GE Healthcare standalone company. This was obviously big news in the press. Big news for investors and big news for the company. It's a serious challenge it's obviously a huge opportunity. And while our focus obviously stays our customers, clinicians caregivers and patients. That doesn't change, our name doesn't change, our DNA doesn't change. I would say other things will shift in this transition which is going to take anywhere between 12 and 18 months here and we're just on the front end of this. I think there's going to be an incredible amount of strategic and tactical work. And if you look at functions from a corporate perspective I think functions like H.R. Human Resources I.T. finance team and especially communications where I said we're going to be in the vanguard of that change is going to be a lot asked of us and frankly there's going to be a lot expected of us. And I. And that said we continue serving our customers continue business as usual helping clinicians best serve their patients and keep our promise to investors but also we need to make sure that we take the right steps take this journey toward becoming a standalone company in the right way. For me it's probably a once in a career type opportunity. It's really exciting and several levels but it's going to be a ton of work. And that's sort of the big projects sitting on the horizon for us.

For sure. Yeah. When I heard about that happening I thought you know what a great opportunity to really focus and really just double down on health care. There's nothing more powerful than their focus and I think that what's on the other side of it like you said it's just a tremendous opportunity you know.

Absolutely.

So as we work through healthcare one of the things that we like to do on the podcast is put together a short syllabus and you and I will do that here through our 101 course. We called for this one. The 101 of Ben Fox on the healthcare business of health care. I've got four questions lightning round now for you followed by your favorite book that you recommend to the listeners. You ready.

Absolutely. Let's go.

All right. What's the best way to improve healthcare outcomes innovate with the patient and the clinician in mind. So by that I just mean connecting the engineering design teams with the clinician and even the patient to have a time. Obviously med tech is getting more and more advanced with each iteration and in fact people are saying and you sort of see day to day that the innovation curve is going up at a steeper rate. I think what's important though is making sure that innovation is patient-friendly not just widget innovation for its own sake.

Love that. What's the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

So I had a manager early in my career who used to give sort of three rules to live by and I edited them a bit but I would say they all touch on this question. His first rule was always use a number two pencil. In other words everyone makes mistakes. Be ready to erase something and move forward. Fail fast. So always. Number two pencil his second rule was no when a gallon of milk costs at the corner store. That was sort of a cynical way of saying do not get your head so stuck up in the clouds at the macro level that you lose touch with what's really going on on the ground. And that's very important for health care I think for companies like G.E. and even for clinicians to really know what that gallon of gas costs or gallon of milk costs at the corner store for the patient here in Wisconsin it's about 2 bucks 99 cents. I don't know what that is but that's the second rule and finally the third rule. He always called upod U P O D and that's just under promise and over deliver. And I think oftentimes you find yourself tempted to over promise and under deliver on things and really need to flip those. So just go with those three.

Love that van. Love the simplicity of it to use that pencil. Now what that gallon a milk.

That's right.

And UPOD baby. And love that that one is sticking my friend. How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

We are facing the question right now G health care I think one of the easy answers is we need to act as a startup act just like a startup would even though we're a century old company. We need to know its cliche make sure we try to disrupt ourselves every day so that someone else in the market doesn't do it for us. And it's a challenge but it's stuff like something we're aware of I'm working toward.

What's one area of focus that should drive everything in a health care organization?

I would say keep the patient and keeps a clinician as your North Star so focus externally don't get stuck in your vendor provider pay your mindset and go from the mindset from the perspective of the patient and the clinician.

What book would you recommend as part of the syllabus to the listeners, Ben?

So two I read recently were Quiet. I think by Susan Cain and it's a it's a book all about the power of introverts. I tend to identify as one of those occasionally and nice and it was an interesting argument that there is power and introversion that maybe hasn't been recognized in the past. There's one I finished last week called artemis. It's a book about basically near future space travel on the moon and it's by Andy Weir. He was the author of The Martian which was the movie recently and I guess that brings me to the book I recommend if I had to. And it's not healthcare related but it's called Dune by Frank Herbert and basically you're not going find a better scifi sweeping narrative out there. I think back 15, 18 years ago when I first met my wife and we were dating long distance for a bit and writing a lot of letters back and forth and one of those times such a center of this book Dune and she was not a scifi fan but I knew she was the one she read it all and asked me. So I can give you a long list.

That's awesome brother. Appreciate that recommendation and listeners go to outcomesrocket.health/benfox, B E N F O X and find all the show notes, the transcript of our discussion today, links to the books that he recommended and all of the things that we discussed. So Ben. This has been a ton of fun. I'd love if you could just leave us with a closing thought and then the best place for the listeners get in touch with or follow you.

The best place to get in touch with me is just on LinkedIn. I think it's Benjamin Fox at GE Healthcare I don't think there's another one but closing thoughts. Thank you for having me on Saul, it's been a blast. But I would say I'm finding an introvert and a somebody who sort of recognize along with a lot of us that silos are an issue in healthcare as well as other industries. I think relationships are part of the answer and that's what's going to get us over some of these humps. And that's a personal, that's a professional. That's sort of a whole life whole wheel of life there, encouragement to myself and everybody there.

Outstanding advice there Ben. Thank you so much for spending time with us. This has been insightful and will definitely be keeping in touch as the months fly by here with this transition of GE. Maybe you would love to have you back on after the transitions over.

Wonderful. Would love to Saul. Thanks much.

Hey Outcomes Rocket friends, thanks for tuning in to the podcast once again. As a leader in health care, you have big ideas great products, a story to tell, and are looking for ways to improve your reach and scale your business. However there's one tiny problem. Health care is tough to navigate and the typical sales cycle is low. That's why you should consider starting your own podcast as part of your sales and marketing strategy. At the Outcomes Rocket, I've been able to reach thousands of people every single month that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach if I had not started my podcast. Having this organic reach enables me to get the feedback necessary to create a podcast that delivers value that you are looking for. And the same thing goes if you start a podcast for what you could learn from your customers. The best thing about podcasting in healthcare is that we are currently at the ground level, meaning that the number of people in healthcare listening to podcasts is small but growing rapidly. I put together a free checklist for you to check out the steps on what it takes to create your own podcast. You could find that at outcomesrocket.health/podcast. Check it out today and find a new way to leverage the sales, marketing and outcomes of your business. That's outcomesrocket.health/podcast.

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Recommended Book:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Artemis

Dune

Best Way to Contact Ben:

LinkedIn: Ben Fox

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