Discovering the most effective ways to implement digital technologies to solve pressing issues in healthcare
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: Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast where we chat with the day’s most successful and inspiring health leaders. I welcome you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews where you could rate and review today’s podcast because we have an amazing guest. His name is Fard Johnmar. He’s a digital health innovation supercharger and futurist from New York City area. He is definitely careful about how tech innovation and progress influence healthcare. He’s a speaker on various topics on this and he’s also been a founder of a company called Enspektos LLC where they are consulting companies specialize in strategy research and training. And the one I want to do is open up the microphone to our outstanding guests and have him fill in any of the gaps of that intro Fard, welcome to the podcast.
: Thank you for having me. It’s a great pleasure to be participating and I appreciate the invitation.
: Absolutely. You’re moving and shaking in digital health my friend. What is it that got you into the medical sector to begin with.
: Sure so I’ve been in the health and medical field for nearly 20 years. It’s kind of hard to believe that’s the case but yes. Nearly 20 years and I have always had an interest in health and medicine. Ever since a young age my family actually expected me to enter the medical profession as a physician. But I ultimately decided that I was really much more interested in working on issues outside of the clinic and turned my attention to really trying to help folks understand how to first of all communicate effectively about medical technology and then ultimately that led to an interest in the combination of health and medicine and technologies such as virtual reality mobile etc. and that interest started in the Leets actually early 2000s or so. And it’s certainly continued sense.
: That’s super interesting. Your folks wanted you to sort of go the practitioner route but you went a little different route and you’ve found great success here. Fard. What would you say a hot topic you take a look at all of health, right. I mean you’re kind of have a broad view on this. What would you say a hot topic that should be on every medical leaders agenda today. What is that?
: The way I like to kind of think about where health in medicine is globally is that obviously over the last few years there’s been an intensive focus on the digitization of health both here in the United States and also around the world. And the reason for that is that there are so many issues related to a worsening health outcomes for people around the world and increasing aging population. Medical expenses and healthcare expenses that continue to skyrocket. And so what people have decided is that there’s something about the use of digital technologies that can potentially help solve some of these issues. And so for obviously the folks listening into this podcast understand that digital technologies are certainly important. The key thing that should be on everyone’s mind is not so much whether or not digital technologies will go away in health care or they’ll die as some people have discussed but more about what are the most effective ways to implement these technologies to solve those pressing issues that I mentioned earlier. And so I think everyone whether they’re an individual physician or working at the highest levels of provider organizations that certainly on their minds I know this from my conversations with them. But it should be something that everybody’s focused on how do we implement in a way that’s going to help us to solve these problems and a very efficient and cost effective way.
: So when we’re talking about these new and innovative technologies some are rock and roll and some are fallen by the wayside. Would you say the key to implementing these technologies in an impactful way and how are you guys doing some things like that to improve outcomes?
: Sure so you know one of the things that I’ve really been focused on in the context of what I call this age of implementation is how organizations are actually working their way up. Something else that I call the Innovation Integration curve right. So we have a lot of innovations that are being developed by maturing organizations around the world and the challenge that health organizations face is how do they take these innovations and actually integrate it into their operations so that they can improve health outcomes save money etc.. And so the way to kind of think about this Innovation Integration curve is kind of in three stages that are very easy to communicate. The first stage is just becoming aware of these technologies and allowing the organization to become educated about the best ways forward the ways that they could potentially impact health. The second is once people have made a determination that these technologies could actually be helpful after stage one the kind of enter into stage two which is what I call engagement and capacity boosting. So basically that means launching pilot projects and really developing the internal capabilities to utilize these technologies to the best of their ability. And then after Stage 2 after the organization has a good sense of how to use these technologies in some limited ways they can then think about how do they actually scale these technologies and make them have the ability to use them proficiently across numerous therapeutic categories use cases et cetera. And so as you think through this Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 it’s both a communication strategy in terms of talking within the organization about where you are on the innovation integration process and then also engaging in specific types of activities related to each stage that will help you kind of systematically engage with these tools. And so the way that I talk about technology may be a bit different from maybe what some of you listening are used to. Usually there’s an emphasis on maybe some specific technology trends such as artificial intelligence or the Internet or voice with applications such as Alexa. My focus in terms of the work that I do with organizations around the world is really helping them to systematically move through these stages so that they can understand where innovation can happen within the organization. The best way is to implement that and then finally be successful.
: I think that these are some really great call outs fard and you know listeners when you move forward with something new something different. It’s important that you consider these distinctions that Fard has highlighted here for us today and why not partner with somebody that’s been there done that helped you get through it. And so that’s what Fard focuses on. It’s better to really work with somebody to help you get there rather than just go blindly and so maybe you can share something with us. Part of a mistake or setback bet you’ve experienced that you can now share learning from with the listeners.
: I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my career and one of the things that I’ve noticed in the work that I’ve done especially being focused on the near future is that sometimes it takes especially in healthcare some time for people to catch up with where I’m going. And that’s one of the reasons that I’ve developed some of these methodologies you know are ways of talking about innovation is through the experience that I have that I’ve had actually developing digital innovations and also trying to have organizations very complex organizations integrate these innovations into their operations. And so one example is a platform that I developed back in 2007 2008 time frame focusing on capturing large amounts of data about how patients were using digital technologies in this case who was mailing the web but also mobile and we were gathering tons and tons of data about their digital activities in order to kind of do some very loose correlations between exposure to digital content and behaviors health care behaviors. So for example if people were constantly seeing messages about a specific medication whether or not that actually changed their mind about adhering to that medication etc. and so taking that technology at that time to have some very large health care organizations. It was very difficult for them to understand how they would integrate this type of technology into their operations. So what I would say is that the experience of integrating innovation into complex organizations comes in part from that difficulty that I had with an application at that time that I think was a little bit too early for the market now. And today you know we have massive projects such as school baseline and we have research kit and other tools that are routinely capturing this kind of data and then making it operationalizing it for health organizations. But at the time this particular innovation it was just too early for a technology like this and so timing and understanding some of the barriers that that innovation faces has been very helpful in terms of taking the learnings from that experience and applying it to some of the newer projects that I’ve worked on.
: That’s a great call out fard and you know it could be a great idea. But if the timing is just not right if the capacity is right you said the mid stage is capacity building. It’s not bare it’s not going to happen.
: Absolutely. And so I think that that’s something that a lot of people who are kind of outside or innovating or trying to push innovations through you know it’s not this word disruptive innovation. Right people talking about disruptive innovation all the time. And you know I certainly think that that’s helpful in some respects to talk about disruption but at the end of the day the question is how are these technologies going to actually disrupt if they don’t have the ability to really be interweaved within the clinical workflow or the life stage of the patient or how organizations operate from a policy perspective for example. And so innovations can only be disruptive if they have the ability to up in some of the fundamental drivers of a system. And I think that what we’re seeing with how organizations like Amazon. Organizations like Google are looking at the health care system what they’re saying is well we can’t just try to inject our technologies into these existing systems. We have to maybe start to transform some of the fundamentals of the marketplace utilizing some of our expertise from other domains so that we can shift the landscape toward where we’d like to go as opposed to where it is now. So I think it’s really thinking systematically about the process of innovation integration and the systems that actually surround it innovation so that one can truly be a transformative force in a way that’s productive rather than counterproductive for these health organizations.
: Yeah Fard, that’s such a great call out and you know why focus on being disruptive. I feel like so many people would just want to be disruptive. Forget about being disruptive. Why don’t you add some value and figure out why and do it in a new way.
: Yeah I mean I think that the word disruptive is I think useful in some contexts but again kind of going back to the stage as it were this age of implementation. I’ve been talking about right where we are right now is where does the rubber meets the road with these technologies. Does the promise of these technologies actually match the reality of where we need to go from you know everything from improving adherence to decreasing the prevalence of diabetes. And so when you see the technologies that are successful you see that they’re really focusing in on looking at a problem in a new way and solving that problem. And when people see success that’s when they’re willing to go and say OK yeah we do need to change the way that we’re doing things but you can’t say to people change for change change is say you have to have some level of evidence and some level of understanding about the best ways to engage so that people can both understand what you’re trying to do trust that it’s going to do what you say it’s going to do and then finally get a get ROI from actually utilizing these innovations.
: Very well said Fard. It’s obvious that you spend a lot of time thinking through these things and helping your clients get through the process. So really appreciate you sharing these these words of wisdom.
: Yeah thank you I appreciate it.
: So I was curious right so you gave us that point of failure. I feel like we learn a lot from that but I think it’s also good to celebrate our successes. Can you share with the listeners one of your most proud medical leadership experiences to date.
: Yes so you know one of the things that I’ve been really working on over the last couple of years is one aspect of kind of the three things that I work on on a daily basis and you referenced it earlier in the conversation. But I’ll just repeat them. One of them is helping people understand we’re the global digital health landscape is going, in a very concrete and practical way. The second strategy and we were talking a lot about innovation strategy and the third is kind of research about what makes innovation go in the first area which is helping people understand we’re the digital health landscape is going in a very practical way. One of the projects that I decided to work on in 2015 was basically launching and starting to collect a large amount of data about how digital health was actually evolving globally and I started to collect this data. I remember in the very beginning of January 2015 because I had an intuition that this information surrounding us on social media on the web etc. would be useful but there really wasn’t anyone collecting this information in a systematic way. And so what I ultimately what this ultimately evolved into after a lot of conversations with healthcare executives was not just collecting the information but actually utilizing technology such as natural language processing and machine learning and some other tools to actually provide context so that people could investigate this database and answer very specific questions such as What are the major technologies pay organizations in the U.S. are focusing on over the last 14 months and what are the specific disease states that they’re most concerned about in terms of using these digital innovations to solve problems. Right. That’s not something that you can easily get from a google search. Right.
: And so one of the things I’m most proud of is kind of taking this and evolving this dataset. Until now it’s the the world’s largest classified and organized data set. More than 4.5 million data points and growing that now I am starting use with those startup organizations. Com you know large complex organizations around the world to help them to answer questions very very quickly about where markets are going and in a way that provides them with insight and context about which these technologies are actually going so they can answer these questions very very quickly. So that’s a really vital part of the innovation process right. Having the ability to quickly understand from a contextual perspective where is the market going. And then secondly where do we live or should be living in this innovation landscape. So what I’ve realized over the years is that people are starting to become frustrated with having to try to plow through all of the information that’s coming at them and what they’re really looking to do is just reduce and become more efficient in terms of trying to find the very specific insights that they’re looking for. So you know I’m very very proud of the fact that I kind of took the lead back in January 2015 and started to collect this data and now I guess it’s been now three years or so later. People are starting to recognize the value of having insights like this and that’s something that I’m very proud of.
: That’s pretty cool and thanks for sharing that. And you know just going the extra mile I mean you took an idea and you said you don’t want nobody’s doing this and Google is not spinning it out but I get smart. And so now you can query the data using voice as well as search.
: Well it’s a search based application. So basically you could just type in keywords like paper digital health you’ll get information about what like what diseases payors are focusing on right now or have been over the last 14 months which innovations tend to be really key areas of focus for payers. And you can look at the data the United States versus Canada for example if you’re interested in that. So it’s not a voice…
: That’s pretty cool.
: Application but it is a search based application that helps people to answer those questions really really quickly and it kind of slice and dice the data in ways that weren’t weren’t possible before. And so the key thing kind of talking about pride of ownership or having doing this is that the thing you know I talked to I spoke before about sometimes being a little bit ahead of where your people are.
: And so when I started this project people were kind of like just getting up to speed on digital health they really felt that they could have an handle on what was happening in the market because it was much smaller than right now. You know things are happening in China and Indonesia and Iceland and Finland you know things are way way around the world in big ways and it’s just impossible for anyone to use e-mail newsletters or Google or those types of things to keep up with it. So I’m sensing that there is more and more value from having this kind of longitudinal database so people can see how things have evolved and pinpoint and quickly understand what issues are important to them as they try once again to implement these these innovations.
: That’s pretty cool and fard if the listeners want to find out more about this database and how do they find out where did they go.
: So back in 2014 I launched a project called the Digital Health MAVEN project and some of you who are listening may have actually heard my intermittent podcast The Digital Health maven podcast but basically that project is designed to provide executives from around the world with the tools and resources that they can use both premium resources as well as a lot of free resources to help them to innovate more successfully using digital technologies and so he’d like to learn more about this digital health innovation staging framework that I discussed earlier or this idea around the age of implementation or learn about this intelligence platform. DG Health and former you can go to www.digitalhealthmaven.com or search on Google for digital health maven project and you’ll find all the information that you’d like about the research that I’ve done and also more about these innovation frameworks.
: That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing that listeners digital health maven. Dot com will also provide a link to that on the show notes for this episode just go to outcomesrocket.health/fard F AR D and you’ll be able to find it there. Fard let’s pretend you and I are building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in medicine the 101 of my man Fard and so I like to write just the syllabus here with you for questions lightning round style followed by a book and a podcast that you recommend to the listeners. You ready.
: What’s the best way to improve health outcomes?
: Best way to improve health outcomes is to take patient centricity from being a buzzword to actually living it. And so what that means is is really collecting information personalizing the interventions to account for people’s cultural background language etc. and that engaging deeply sometimes in a one on one basis with patients to health and take the steps that they need every day to improve health outcomes reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks etc.. It’s very labor you know even though we have a lot of these digital technologies what they allow us to do is to scale our operations but it still requires a human touch and some level of personal life support for people to really make the changes that they need to make in order to improve outcomes across a whole range of areas.
: What’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?
: I think one of the biggest mistakes is being in your silo your own silo and thinking that you know everything. And so one of the things that I that I encourage people to do is to cultivate curiosity and what that means is to really understand. Try to break outside of your bubble your day to day and cultivate the curiosity that you can use to look at problems in a new way and be flexible about the best ways to achieve the goals you’re looking to achieve.
: How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?
: I think the key thing to remaining relevant as an organization is to really try to give people within the organization ongoing learning opportunities. Right. There’s a lot of organizations that do invest in their employees do invest in their ongoing learning but not enough organizations really prioritize that. And so in order to stay relevant you really have to know what’s going on and you have to not just at the highest levels of the organization but also managers who are responsible for implementing really do need to have the ability to be exposed to new ideas to continuously learn about what’s happening across the landscape and then have the ability to apply what they learn in interesting ways either in mission critical projects or more experimental initiatives. This idea of creating innovations silos where you kind of got the innovation center out somewhere and then they’re the ones doing innovation is great to kind of start to get things moving outside of kind of the bureaucracy of the organization but ultimately you’re going to have to bring that activity into the organization and provide people up and down the organizational hierarchy with the ability to be exposed to these innovations to understand how they work and also implement them in new ways. That’s really the only way that organizations can stay relevant despite the fact that things are changing and they are changing even faster than they have in the past. I mean just the pace of change is just accelerating. So I think that doing that is vitally important.
: What a great call up Fard and listeners think about that process again that fard talked about at the beginning right. You really. Innovation has different stages. And you can’t just silo it. You’ve got to empower the entire organization that is at the frontline. These managers these directors to make it happen. Love that. What’s an area of focus that should drive everything in a health organization?
: I think the thing I mean there’s a lot of things that health organizations are concerned about re profitability maximizing clinical workflows those types of things. I think one of the things that tends to get lost is the fact that as large largest organizations are there are still populated by individuals by people and I think the focus of trying to make sure that your workforce or your colleagues are respected they have a work environment that they feel like they can contribute to. Those are some of the things that I think are sometimes under recognized in organizations. And so I think if we push toward that that level of focus on the people within the organization and supporting them I think that will make it organizations much more successful.
: Love it. What’s the book in a podcast that you recommended to listeners Fard?
: Yes so a book that I recommend to listeners is a book read a few years ago called Steal Like An Artist. I really like this book because it focuses on cultivating the idea that great work always is built on the shoulders of others. And so what artists do is that they take and remix the work that that other people are doing in order to achieve their specific goal. So that’s a book that I certainly recommend that people kind of take a listen to one of the podcasts that I really enjoy. That’s actually not related to health care but I listen to quite often I listen to it for a long time as a podcast called On Being by Krista Tippett.
: On Being?
: On Being, right by Krista Tippett.
: I like the title what’s it about?
: Yeah. Basically it’s a podcast that just interviews people about their perceptions of the world how they grew up with pretty cool what makes them tick and a lot of the people that are interviewed on the podcast are very prominent people. So they’re talking about things like how their faith for example shaped their thinking why they do what they do what makes them tick. So that’s a podcast that I really like I’m sure some listeners know about that podcast and it’s one that I recommend.
: That’s a great recommendation. Steal Like An Artist and On being you know quote that I’ve heard kind of in tune with that Fard as listeners. You’re a human being. You’re not a human doing and so focused more on being you’ll be be more fulfilled.
: Absolutely absolutely. I totally agree with that.
: Fard appreciate that. Before we conclude you know I love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place where the listeners could get in touch with you.
: Yes so you know my biggest closing thoughts since I tend to focus a lot on digital innovation and you know I describe myself as a digital health futurist focused on the short term future. I think the closing thought is stay curious, stay focused, and really try to understand how these technologies can be implemented to solve real problems that people are facing everyday. I think if you do those things you can be more successful from an innovation process and then separate the hype from the reality and start to makes it make a difference when it comes to implementing these technologies in the day to day work.
: Awesome that’s really powerful and where would you say the listeners could get a hold of you or follow you.
: Sure. So people can go to wwww.digitalhealthmaven.com they can as I mentioned get access to a lot of different resources they’d like to get in touch. They can visit my personal website www.fardjohnmar.com. You can learn a lot more about me. You can contact me through the contact form there. I’m always happy to talk with people about their work that they’re doing and I look forward to hearing from some of your listeners hopefully soon.
: Hey thanks a lot. We really appreciate just spending time with us listeners. Don’t worry about writing any of that down. All of the resources that fard shared our conversation, the book, everything can be found and outcomesrocket.health/fard truly appreciative of your insights and looking forward to staying in touch with you.
: Thank you so much for this great opportunity. This is a fantastic conversation. And best of luck with continuing with the podcast it’s definitely a great show.
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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