Finding out what the world needs in healthcare
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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 welcome you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews where you can rate and review today’s outstanding guest because he is an amazing contributor to health care. His name is Brian McEathron. He’s the Vice President and General Manager at GE Ultrasound a division that’s part of GE health care. With over 20 years in healthcare, Brian has navigated through the various health care economies and policy cycles and come up with success in improving patient outcomes, new product innovation and excellent business results – something that’s hard to do over the span of time. And so because of that and because of all the things that he’s done and the person that he is I wanted to give him a warm welcome on the podcast. Brian, welcome.
: Hey thanks so much, Saul. It’s a privilege to be here.
: It is a pleasure to have you on, Brian. And so I always like to kick off the podcast with asking – Why health care? Why did you decide to get in?
: I was always kind of an engineer at heart. And obviously with schools in engineering as I was graduating there were all these opportunities in the defense industry at that point of time. I had a lot of opportunities to join the defense industry and then this opportunity came up to go into GE Healthcare and I tell you what I was just doing cartwheels. There was something in my soul that said this is what you need to do and be part of a purpose for your life. And I was just skipping down the road and I thought this is it. And I felt that way ever since.
: Wow that’s amazing. I mean truly lucky to feel that way from the beginning.
: Yeah, absolutely. You know I think health care gets into soul and when you see the impact it has on people’s lives not just here and with your family. But people all over the world, in different countries, in different spaces and how you can make a difference together with a big team – it’s really something that’s impactful.
: I totally agree, Brian. And you know what you guys have done there, the legacy and the team there, the leadership team in your business unit. You guys are definitely known for your innovation your growth, improving outcomes. Out of all the things that you guys cover, what would you say is one hot topic that needs to be on every medical leaders agenda today and how are you guys addressing it?
: Yeah you know being part of GE you naturally become a fan of Thomas Edison when you read the things that Thomas Edison did. One of the things that he always said was find out what the world needs and then go ahead and try to invent it. So, I think about what does the world need now in terms of healthcare. And I think simply put its access to high quality, safe and affordable healthcare. And this is what the world of ultrasound that I’m involved with is all about because it’s high quality affordable, accessible. You can take it to every country and it’s basically a superpower that allows clinicians to look inside the body anytime, anywhere a patient is. And now due to technology advances it’s basically shrunken down to the size of an iPhone and you can carry it just about anywhere in the world and provide healthcare to people that never had it before. The other thing I think about is the second quote from Thomas Edison that he said over 100 years ago and He said the doctor the future will give no medicine but will instruct his patients in the care of the human frame in their diet and the cause in prevention of disease. So he’s talking about the real advance in health care next will be wellness in an individual before they need a doctor. Now, 100 years later we’re seeing that become more and more into the mainstream as personalized healthcare devices and the internet of things allow us to monitor ourselves, understand where we need to go and how to improve ourselves before we ever need a doctor. Those are the kinds of things that I think are really interesting in the world today: access and personalized healthcare.
: Brian, I think you hit some really great hot topics. And one of the things, a common denominator listeners all great leaders understand and know that they stand on the shoulders of those before them and just like Brian walked us through some of these inspirational things that Mr. Edison said he was way ahead of his time. We too need to stop and think. We’re not here by ourselves, right. We’re here because of what those before us did. And this is just a great share that you gave us here Brian. So, thank you for that reminder. Can you give the listeners an example of how your organization has created results, improved outcomes by thinking and doing things differently?
: Absolutely. My most favorite recent topic is in the world of breast cancer and for the last 40 years there’s really only been two ways to detect breast cancer for the most part. One of them is self-breast exam and the other has traditionally been to go with under a mammography machine, which is an X-ray based technology. And both these techniques really have challenges in the world that we can greatly improve on. And so we’ve been spearheading a development to use ultrasound to detect breast cancer and do that screening worldwide. And now we have the potential of delivering very high quality, safe, and affordable breast cancer screening to women not just in the most developed countries but for women in every country around the world. This has really been something that we’ve been driving recently. And when I look back over the trajectory of how this is developed there’s really been a couple of obstacles to doing this. The first was to try to build a better mousetrap and in our case it was changing this paradigm that you had to use X-ray technologies instead of ultrasound. And so it really took about 15 years of trying different ultrasound techniques starting failing, pivoting, but ultimately sticking to the mission over a 15 year period of time to develop something that could be used which is really hard in the world looking for three to five year paybacks.
: Sometimes you just can’t get that. You have to persevere longer. And that was very important to me in terms of understanding how long you have to persist in this space. The second thing I learned was once you have a better mousetrap you’re only a third of the way there. I think this is where a lot of startup companies get stuck. They believe that inventing something better will change the world. But that’s where the mission begins. Because the second issue is how to convince the world that this is a better mousetrap. So doing massive clinical trials to prove the clinical evidence that is needed, proving to the regulatory agencies in every country doing mass marketing to educate the physicians that are involved whether in this case radiologists, breast surgeons, OBGYN, internal medicine people, primary care people, along with all the different societies that have to be convinced of something like this. It’s a massive undertaking that people don’t take into account when they do start-up companies and don’t have that infrastructure to do something like that. The third most difficult thing is expanding your reach into the world – setting up logistics, service, training,, marketing getting regulatory approvals in every country. This is a type of thing that you really have to carry through to make sure that that mousetrap can really impact the world. So it’s not just about building the thing in the first place. It’s extending it into the world educating people developing evidence that’s the other two thirds of the work that I’ve learned really makes a difference in these successful endeavors versus the ones that don’t succeed.
: Brian super insightful and I feel like it’s very impressive that a division like yours is not a large company like GE has the innovative staying power with like you said you know three to five year payback expectations. You guys held strong for 15 years. What is it that drives that? I mean that’s pretty impressive that you guys have that type of innovation culture. What is it that accounts for that?
: Yeah you know I think at the bottom of it is I have a firm belief that what you can do will ultimately make a difference. You know there’s enough fundamental evidence that you can change things knowing that you’re going to have to go through all these obstacles but at the end of that run you can significantly change the world and improve lives in the truly important moments of people’s lives and ultimately that will win out. I think it’s hard it’s hard in a bigger organization like GE. and any others too. A lot of people have a lot of good ideas and you have to balance short term versus long term pay outs. And I think at the end of the day it takes people with a lot of passion and purpose to run the gauntlet of internal organization to make sure that that can happen over a long period of time.
: That’s a great share. How about you know your success has been very awesome. I saw you guys had about a year ago the pocket ultrasound increasing that access to ultrasound across the globe. Take us through some of the stumbling areas. Talk to us about a setback that you’ve had and what you learned from that.
: Oh boy that’s a tough one it’s always tough to admit where you’ve failed but maybe we phrase it as where I’ve learned a good lesson. How about that?
: Let’s do it. Tell us about a good lesson.
: Yeah I’ll take you back to the breast cancer situation. In terms of the early understanding that this can make a huge difference actually happened about 20 years ago. We knew in the late 90s that ultrasound could do a significantly better job than some of the technologies out there in detecting breast cancer. And we would start a project and start running with it but ultimately we ended up scrapping a lot of the early missions and the reason for that is because even though the fundamental idea was good, the underlining trajectory of where the technology was evolving too. We were too early in that curve. So understanding where the ideas and the technologies to support that idea are going to intersect in time and how far ahead of that you want to start development is ultimately a lesson learned that if you start too early and the underlying technology available in the world today won’t be available for another 10 or 15 years you can waste a lot of time and go down a lot of blind alleys. So you know that was to me a fundamental understanding of mapping out to trajectory of the technology curves and making sure that you hit them at the right point in time.
: Brian – such a great point and a lot of folks trying to innovate within big companies and also entrepreneurs can oftentimes be blindsided by the love of their idea. What advice would you give them within the context of the timing thing that you just shared? What advice would you give them?
: Well first of all I never want to suppress that love or passion people have for that idea because at the heart of that I think that’s what drives innovation. I think the underlying understanding though is a lot of times those people that are so passionate about an idea become blindsided about the practicality of the technology or the market creation, the evidence creation, the reaching into the world, and all those aspects of it. So even though you know that initial kind of love of your idea and a passion to make a difference at some point in time you have to either put people around you or put different mechanisms to realize that idea because a great idea that ultimately goes nowhere really hasn’t made an impact in the world. So that core seed of loving your idea is great. But at some point in time you have to take that forward and really understand that the idea is maybe a third of the mission and really the other two thirds of the mission is really making it have a difference in the world and all the things that it takes to enable that.
: Awesome I love that. Make sure you get your impact out there folks because your idea’s not everything. It is the seed like Brian said but it definitely has to be accompanied by the structures and the people to help you get there. Brian – what would you say one of your proudest medical leadership moments to date that you’ve experienced?
: Right now I’ve got the privilege… since we’ve got a massive installed base of ultrasound systems we effectively care for about 1 million patients each and every day somewhere in every country around the world and I think about it in terms of say even 1 percent of those cases directly had a critical impact in the diagnostic decision or guided a lifesaving procedure that is 10,000 lives each and every day that we’ve made a huge huge difference in each and every day and that’s somebody’s spouse, their brother, their child, their grandparent. That to me is a really really big deal and that’s why we do what we do and you know frankly it’s a privilege to be part of something that can impact that many lives.
: It’s a great reason to get up every day isn’t it.
: Absolutely. Yeah. It keeps driving you forward and wanting you to become better because once you start seeing the impact of what you can do and then understand the potential of what still needs to be done… It just wants you to do better for the world.
: Yeah. Brian I think it’s really cool that you took the time to think through the number of patients impacted and for the leaders listening to this podcast let’s learn from Brian here and think through our business. How many people are we touching and how can we communicate that to our teams? Because we can very easily get caught up with dollars and cents of what we do. Let’s not forget the patients at the middle of this and learn from what Brian did – you know – a really cool way to communicate this to your team is the numbers. Show them the number of people that you’re impacting. Brian – tell us a little bit about an exciting project or focus that you’re working on today.
: Oh we just launched a new baby. We call our new product development babies. We’re in the process of giving birth to a brand new super high-end ultrasound machine. It’s called the LOGIQ E10. We just launched it in the United States and Europe over the past couple of weeks.
: Yes thanks, thanks. This was a 4 year gestation period. It takes a long time you know with hundreds of people in different places like Milwaukee, Tokyo, Phoenix and even in Norway. Something that uses kind of pivotal new technologies in this space and it simply makes ultrasound look amazing, easy to use. And now it’s designed to interface to more of what I call the internet of things so they can leverage things like deep learning and artificial intelligence to continually make the machine better over time. For us it’s really going to be a game changer and it’s the birth of something that we think is going to further transform the world and really help save a lot of lives over the next decade.
: That is super exciting. And again congratulations to you and your entire team. For anybody that’s curious Brian, is there a link that you could share with us now or maybe later we can include in the show notes for them to check out this amazing innovation out?
: Just google LOGIQ E10 and it will pop up. Here’s the key. It’s not l-o-g-i-c. It’s LOGIQ.
: Oh I like that.
: Very tricky so don’t make that mistake. LOGIQ
: I like that though. That’s really slick. LOGIQ is going to incorporate some of the machine learning some of the artificial intelligence to make those predictions help patients live even longer more healthy lives. I think that’s so exciting so folks check that out. Plug it into your Google or just check out the shownotes, and we’ll be able to have that link in there as well. Brian this has been a lot of fun getting close to the end here so typically I like to do a little lightning round syllabus. But let’s take it a different direction. Why don’t you hit it off with a book that you recommend to the listeners? And then we could walk through some of the lightning round questions.
: Sounds good. I’m going to name two books – I enjoy on a personal level and then another one at a business level. On a personal level I really enjoy reading about true life stories or events where leaders have taken people through just incredible experiences and persevered through it. One of the ones is a book by about Ernest Shackleton he is the first guide to take the ship in Durant to the South Pole in 1914 and the experience of how he had to lead his team through just incredible amazing experiences. And any day I think I’m having a hard day at work – I just have to think about what these people have gone through and it kind of makes everything much easier allows me to move ahead with a smile on my face. So that’s one book that I really enjoy. The second one on the business level is a book that hasn’t been written yet and I hope it is someday and that’s written by somebody that both you and I know he is the CEO of Medtronic. His name is Omar Ishrak I had the privilege of working with Omar for about 12 years here at GE before he went over to Medtronic and here’s what the syllabus book would be.
: I love it. Let’s hear it.
: Chapter 1. Segment the market by application by the problem they are selling by geography by price point. Really understand and pick a customer niche. Now Chapter 2 takes that niche and says we’re going to develop a wing doing business aimed at delighting this niche with real solutions. And this wing to wing business is going to include salespeople, applications people, R&D people, marketing people, manufacturing. You’re going to build a business whose purpose and mission is to delight those customers and then Chapter 3 of the book goes into choosing a leader for this business who’s passionate, purposeful, persistent and inspirational and someone who can instill the mission or purpose of this endeavor into both his team as well as clinical leaders in every country and around the world that they operate in this space. Chapter 4 is.
: Let’s give it a go. I want to hear it.
: All right. Chapter 4 is about how you take the team and connect them with the key opinion leaders in this space to view you not just as a peer in the industry but a trusted friend who’s got you on speed dial where you’ve got that connection with them or they’re inviting you over to your house – to sleep overs – whatever it is that you’re that connected into the key opinion leaders around the world in this space. Chapter 5 is make sure that when you come out with things – that you innovate in smaller chunks more frequently than anyone else in the market. So don’t do 5, 10 year moonshots do 1 and 2 year or faster incremental improvements to your product or offering because the impact and the confidence that does to your team and your industry is really amazing. Chapter 6 is making sure that you understand that profitability is a sexy thing that you do every day and not an afterthought. So, developing long term strategies like taking 10 percent of the cost of your product out every year or 15 percent proving the quality of your product every year that happens year over year, every year becomes a culture and a way of doing business and ultimately what people find is that’s the oxygen which grows your business. Finally, Chapter 7 is how to create an environment where the best of the best want to play that they want to be part of this team. And sometimes the best of the best are the ‘A’ players from the Ivy League school but also the people that have the passion and purpose in their soul that are willing to roll up their sleeves work together in big teams and really make a difference in the world and overcome tough situations. And if there was an appendix to this book it would be about how to acquire companies and not ruin them, and which is something that happens in the industry. And it’s really a special art. So that’s the book that’s going to be written and it’s going to be my new favorite when it comes out.
: Amazing. Brian first of all I just want to tell you that was awesome. By far the best syllabus that we’ve put out to date and a shout out to Mr. Omar Ishrak. If that book comes out we’re all ready to buy it. And so Brian really appreciate the outline there. I don’t think there’s need for a lightning round because listeners all you have to do is go back and follow this outline – this outline is such an insightful outline that all of us can learn from. And when the book does come out hey maybe you guys will co-author it Brian. Who knows. I think we all want to know and we’d be happy to have you on when it does come out.
: Awesome. I can’t wait.
: I love it. Brian this has been so much fun and what a great way to send this off with this outline of this book. Before we conclude I would love if you could just share a closing thought with the listeners and then the best place where they could get in touch with you.
: Very good. Yeah – you know – to me working in health care is really a special privilege. What I found is you get to work with really amazing inspirational purposeful people and in a sense there are people all over the planet. We get to solve issues that affect the entire world. And we can truly make a difference in people’s lives in moments that matter for them. But, it’s not an easy space. If it were, anybody could do it. But it takes someone that really has a lot of passion, purpose, perseverance, who continually want to learn and grow and develop in this world. You know my guess is the kind of people that are listening to these podcasts actually are those type of people so my hats are off to all of you – keep going. Get better. The world needs people like you to be successful and really make a difference so appreciate everybody’s time today. If you want to get a hold of me, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. It’s Brian McEathron. I work at GE Healthcare in the ultrasound division. And it’s been a privilege for me to join you guys today.
: Brian it’s been a blast and we really all thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to spend time with us to share these nuggets and listeners to get all of the transcript, links that we’ve shared all the things that Brian shared with us today. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/brianmc and you’ll be able to find all that there. So Brian again we thank you and salute you my friend.
: Very good. Hey thanks so much, Saul. Have a great day.
Thanks for tuning into 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 took 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 be one of the 200 that will participate. Looking forward to seeing you there.
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