Connecting the Dots Between Data and People to Grow Your Organizational Impact with Jon Mertz, Founder at Thin Difference
Episode 148

Jon Mertz, Founder at Thin Difference

Connecting the Dots Between Data and People to Grow Your Organizational Impact

Contributing to healthcare through focusing on wellness

Connecting the Dots Between Data and People to Grow Your Organizational Impact with Jon Mertz, Founder at Thin Difference

Episode 148

Connecting the Dots Between Data and People to Grow Your Organizational Impact with John Mertz, Founder at Thin Difference

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

Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring healthcare leaders. I want to welcome you to the show once again and I invite you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews where you could rate and review today’s podcast because we have an outstanding individual and contributor to the health world. His name is Jon Mertz. He has a wealth of experience in health. He was previously the vice president of marketing at corepoint health out of Dallas Fort Worth area. He’s also the owner and blogger at Thin Difference where he helps leaders find common ground. The cross generational differences between previous generations current generations will dive into a little bit more about that. But Jon also had a good impact across the different areas of health including having chaired the Himm’s social media Task Force and growing several double digit growth businesses into a really good place. So I wanted to welcome him to the podcast today to cover some of the aspects of just caregiving and the challenges associated with that and the cross generational divide. So Jon really want to extend a warm welcome to you.

Thank you, Saul. So glad to be here and appreciate your great work.

Thank you so much sir. I really appreciate that. And so you know you’ve been around the block several times. You’re in the process of making another transition but the one thing that you’ve done so well is you’ve helped people grow and you’ve helped people think outside of normal convention. What would you say today is what’s driving you to stay in health care.

A lot of it is I think most people to some degree it starts with personal experiences things that you go through personally as it relates to your health as well as you know if you have aging parents or or even children issues that always makes health care relevant and centered in a lot of that what we do. You know depending on the time of a lot of those care issues or transitions we get more involved.

Yeah you know there’s no doubt that all of us has a stake in health and personal family children. And so was there something in particular that was a catalyst for you to get you into it.

Well from a company standpoint you know I had been involved with a few startups in Austin Texas earlier in my career. And when a friend of mine got involved in corporate health as a CEO there was kind of a natural connection at that point. And I had been I had spent probably. I don’t even remember now but 10 or 15 years and kind of general I.T. infrastructure and corepoint. Health that was obviously health care I.T. and infrastructure so you know looking at how the data flow works within a hospital or between two healthcare entities. And so there is a natural fit. But I’ve got to say to just by being involved with corporate health for over 10 years it really did heightened my awareness to some of the challenges that exist for providers as well as for patients like me.

And that’s really interesting and appreciate you sharing that inspirational story sort of just navigated through a relationship with a friend. But you’ve stay I mean being there for 10 years is definitely a testament to your dedication to the area. And so through those years John what would you say. Flash forward to today is a hot topic that should be on every health leaders agenda.

Well I think I would say probably two or three things. I think one thing is just the whole in my opinion kind of maybe a shift in mindset from health care to wellness. And I think whether you’re a 20 something or a 50 something focused more focused on your wellness. I think that’s something more activating to that term than healthcare. To me health care is a little more passive. So that idea of wellness I think is very important. I think another areas just kind of where the digital wellness marketplace will go and how we’ll have better experiences as patients I think is another key area and then a third one I think is really a big generational shift that are obviously getting older. So millennials and Jency are going to be passed or have a responsibility to care for their parents. And there’s going to be a number of challenges as that kind of shift happens as well.

Yeah that’s a pretty cool analysis of sort of the things that are brewing across the health industry and I was sitting over a lunch yesterday with a colleague and he asked me you know what do you think the impact of Amazon and JPMorgan and not these folks getting into health and really around the areas that you’re discussing you know it’s wellness it’s being able to make the experience better. Definitely not seeing a disruption in an FDA approved devices short term but the areas that you just covered especially the area of caring for your loved one that may be going through some health issues I think is a key component. That’s going to come with these different organizations joining the health space. Any thoughts on that.

Yeah I think there’s a couple thoughts I guess in a one is because I’ve gone through this personally but who is my mom and dad today. Families are more dispersed so you know we’re not living in the same cities or even necessarily in the same states. And when you are come into the role of helping your parents figure out kind of what’s next as well as just some of the care and end of life considerations. It gets a lot more challenging from a distance you travel and you obviously are there as much as you can be. But I think looking at platforms or are ways to stay better connected into their unfolding care and how some of those decisions how you can be more involved in those decisions I think are going to be interesting and hopefully some good developments over time around that. And then I think you know the other side of it is is that I know there’s a lot or individuals that bring in their parents into their homes and take care of them for a lot of lot of reasons and some of the same issues will come into play as far as how to manage their health how to make sure their you have access to the records how you can make the best decisions with them as as well as with the care providers. So I think there’s a lot of work to be done. I think to make that a more supportive process. But I think there’s a lot of opportunity especially in a demographic shifts. You know there’s going to be a greater need for that as well.

And John I think it’s a really good point as we talk about generational shifts and your focus. So listeners. John has a blog it’s called the thin difference actually thindifference.com will provide that in the show nutsy can access it. But in this blog he focuses a lot on closing the gap between generations and as we talk about taking care of our loved ones that are experiencing health conditions I think it’s a hot topic that needs to be focused on. What are your thoughts here on on this generational difference. You speak a lot about millenials and making sure that this gap doesn’t widen with Generation Z. What’s the shift that needs to happen there.

I think it’s a mindset and mindset shift that needs to happen. You know I don’t know you know because what the I’m not sure what caused some older generations to be a little bit more margin as it relates to younger generations. But to state it simply they just need to stop it. I’ve never seen there’s always been little nitpicking about the younger generations through the years so there’s strength there but it definitely seems to have intensified with millennials and I’m not quite sure why we should always be supportive of the next generation. You know we should always try to leave the place that we work in a real live in a little bit better than before. I mean that’s been our history. So older generations have a responsibility to do that and to pass the baton well and the younger generations have a responsibility to pick up the baton and make the most out of it. And there’s a lot of encouraging things in my opinion about the millennials and the next generation as well. They’re much more focused on purpose I think than ever I was when I was 20 something and we shouldn’t be encouraging that rather than trying to tear some of that down. You know if you want to put it up from a personal or self-interest standpoint you’re going to depend on millennials to be successful because as old generations retire or need to rely on them for their care you want the next generation to be successful. So anyway I think there needs to be a mindset shift there needs to be where we can sit down and the younger generations learn from the older ones and the older ones learn from the younger ones. I’ve learned a lot from Millennials and Gen Z and I hope I continue to do that and to be the other way as well.

Yeah I think that’s really interesting and especially in this area of health that we have to find a way to find this common ground. Jon you focus a lot on common ground. Even have a term an identity that you’ve created through the community at thin difference it’s called the common grounder. Can you talk just a little bit about the common ground or the philosophy and what this is all about.

Yeah it’s really again about not kicking problems down the road. So we need a really encouraging generation of problem solvers and solution crafters because if you want to ding the older generations I think we’ve kicked too many problems down the road whether it be our health care system our federal deficits and debt whatever you want to throw in that bucket. There’s our public infrastructure. I mean there’s a lot of things that need to be more proactively addressed. And so what the philosophy around common ground are is really let’s share the diverse perspectives that are diverse opinions. But then let’s with respect and civility begin to craft those solutions that are going to leave our place better than where we found it. So that’s really the idea behind common grounders.

Yeah and I think listeners in the perspective of health what can we do to take this philosophy of taking a look at the common ground that we have with others and to resolve the problems that we all share. Rather than creating a divide between whether it be generations and even between health systems. Right what are the common ground that you share with health systems in your area or companies in your area. And what can you do to leverage those common ground things to make it better for patients as well as as your own business. Maybe I’d love to hear one of the things that you’ve experienced in your life in your business John that you would like to share as it relates to a setback or a failure and what you learned from it.

Well I’ve been lucky in life I guess in the sense that I’ve really had the experience of working with good people for the most part throughout my career. And that makes a big difference. You know I think there’s always going to be setbacks. I mean probably one of the more challenging times I experienced in business life was a startup back in the late 90s. You remember in the late 90s that’s when the first dotcom boom happened. So yes there was a ton of money flowing flowing into high tech. At the time I was working for IBM. I mean we were literally in our division. We probably had 30 40 going away parties every Friday so much the outflow to startups was happening and obviously caught that bug. It went and did that but we had the experience of ramping up and then unfortunately we also had the experience of ramping down. So in the dotcom boom you know the blue. And we had to adjust and we were in the fortunate companies where we survived but it was with a lot of toil and really you know discouragement through kind of through the process. But you learn to persevere. You learn to figure out how to put the pieces back together and stay focused and you know kind of start that rebuilding process and other side really from a challenging perspective. Fortunately I was able to stay on the company kind of through this process and you know there was a lot of trials and tribulations with that but it wasn’t half as bad as what happened. You know we had to lay off a lot of over half the company. See how it impacts personal lives and how they need to also put the pieces back together and find to track in a very challenging economic time. And so you know I guess for a lot reasons that’s probably one of the more challenging times for me in my business life. But it also really I think put the more personal focus on you know what really business the impact it has on personal lives and I think we need to be more aware of that. And I think that’s where you know if you shift that to health care it’s encouraging to see a lot of companies kind of take on more wellness type programs within their companies. A couple of years ago Aetna started mindfulness practices within their company whether you know setting aside time premeditation for yoga for other types of activities to take try to care for the whole person within their company and there’s others that are doing that as well and I think that’s a very encouraging trend.

Yeah Jon I love your thoughts on wellness versus just healthcare because a lot of folks are healthy. And what can we do as employers. Right. If you’re leader listening to this and you have your employees what can you do to help them with their wellness rather than their health care. And there’s a lot of things you could do. So think about that as a differentiator for you and your business what you can do for your employees. So for this topic here I love to just ask a couple of questions for you through a lightning round. We do a course quick syllabus here. And so this is the ABCs of Jon Mertz in healthcare. Okay. So I got four questions for you here John followed by a book and a podcast that you recommend to the listeners. You ready.

I’m ready.

Awesome. What is the best way to improve health outcomes.

The best way to improve health comes I think to me it starts with individuals so I think we have a responsibility to embrace our wellness and figure out a program that works for us to stay healthy. So exercise I think is an important part of that diet obviously as a part of that and communities are an important part of that. And so I think the best way to improve outcomes is for as an individual figure out what works for you and grab somebody to join that community of wellness and lifestyle.

What’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid.

I think letting things slide. I mean I think it’s easy to say oh exercise another day or all or I’ll just take the doctor’s prescription and not think twice about it. I think we need to be more proactive. You know just a personal example. You know I have bone issues so I have osteopenia and so my doctor said you know you can take this pill to help build your bone strength. You know don’t worry about what it says on the Internet. It’s overblown but that’s an option or kind of. I was in and through our conversations like to start lifting weights. Yes. So I had a choice. You know I could have taken the easy road right which is just take the pill or I could take heart a road which was start weight training and I decided I didn’t want to take a pill. So you know I’ve been training I’ve been by not my bone issues always going to be there but it’s stabilized it’s not deteriorating. And as you get older in particular putting weights into your exercise routines is very important. So you know I guess the point is is that listen to your doctor there’s nothing wrong with that. But then think it through do some research have a more intense conversation with the position and figure out what’s going to be best.

Yeah I love that John. You know I was at dinner with some customers the other day and at one point it just let’s just be honest I love meat. I enjoy eating. And just like several months ago I looked and I saw my cholesterol I took my exam and I noticed that it was above 200 and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. And so I ended up going on to Atlanta based diet for two solid months and after that I went from like 230 to 101. And I was sharing this story with a friend of mine at dinner and he told me that. So he’s he’s in his 60s and same thing happened to him and his doctor recommended a pill and he went with the plant based diet and it worked too. So to your point listeners it’s important that we consider the alternatives as it relates to things that we could do with exercise in our diet before we take a pill. In medicine definitely has its role but I definitely love that you mention that John and just think proactively.

Well in a lot of ways food is medicine too. You know it’s you right. And I think this is funny that you’re a chef because I don’t know if you received the I think it’s on that plus whatever Forks Over Knives. I mean it’s a book too. It’s very interesting to listen to these researchers two researchers I came together and kind of came to the same conclusion separately but diet is a very important element and can have a very positive impact on your health.

Yeah I totally agree. And same with exercise right. That could be a prescription.


Exactly. I love it. And I’m glad you caught that and now you’re doing your weights. How often are you doing them.

At least twice a week.

I love it. And you got to keep it realistic to me. Can’t tell yourself I’m going to do two hours a day five days a week because then you just you’ll Drop it.

Exactly. I think it’s I’ve always joked that going into a gym which I hadn’t done really up until probably in my maybe early 50s going into a gym you have to have a good sense of humor. And I got to have a good sense of humility and have those two things you can do anything.

I love that Jon. Great message. How do you stay relevant as an organization. Despite constant change.

Read it’s not just reading what’s on the Internet. We are definitely in an information overload society I think and I think a way to stay relevant is to read newspapers and select the few magazines and probably you know mix those up every now and then so you don’t get stale in that perspective. And then the other thing is dive into some good books. You can’t just go with what’s current. I think you have to take a look back and read some history some Bogra fee and mix in some fiction literature that keeps your MA in sharp and keeps you focused on the importance of story in life.

I love that what’s one area of focus that should drive everything in a health organization.

Well I would say wellness. I think just again that shift to being more active in the way you look at yourself and delivering care to others. I think wellness as a different puts a different wrapper around what you do. And I think also a key part of that is within wellness. There’s usually a good sense of community and through that type of attitude we get out together exercise together learn together and be healthy individuals. Through that wellness mindset.

Wellness listeners make wellness the center of what you focus on at your company and see what happens to your employees and to your patients. What book would you recommend to the listeners and what podcasts would you recommend.

Reading a book right now. I think I’ve actually read it a number of years ago but I think from a leadership perspective it’s very relevant and it’s called heroic leadership by Chris Maloney shows the importance of self reflection and self-awareness and also just looking at some history elements of how good companies were built and last that the sense of the test of time. So that will be a book I guess I would recommend and at this point in time and I’m a big Theodore Roosevelt fan so any biography or book on Theodore Roosevelt I would add that awesome.

And how about a podcast that’s interesting. So there I mean I have big podcasts fan so there are a couple that I think there are that I find interesting.

One is recode which is looks at the media space. I find it very interesting.


Correct. And it’s kind of out of my industry but I think it is by looking at other industries like media and I think you learn more about relationships and different business models. And so it’s been interesting you know the one that kind of goes in seasons revisionist history and fascinating.

Gladwell right.

Yep yep.

I haven’t. You know I’ve seen it I haven’t heard it though. You recommend it.


What do you like about it.

Well it just it takes a look back at a series of events and there’s always these things that maybe you didn’t know or unfold a little bit differently than or could have unfolded differently than you would have expected to. So I don’t know. I think it kind of Spurs your mind to revisit history and look at how events came together.

I think that’s a great recommendation. Gladwell does such a great job of making you rethink things that listeners don’t worry about writing any of that down. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/Mertz that’s John’s last name. M E R T Z. And you can find all the show notes as well as links to his blog links to the books he recommended as well as the podcasts that he recommended. Jon this has been a ton of fun. Before we conclude I’d love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place where the listeners could get a hold of you.

Yeah so my closing thought would be is to take the word activate and figure out how you can make that more come alive in your life. And it’s only within your family life your business life and I think equally important to those two is within your community like we need more people engaged in all levels of those three areas as well as at times taking a step back because when you get out to nature you become more activated in your and your community your family and business life.

A great message John. And and what would you say the best place for the listeners to get in touch with your value is.

Sure. So as you mentioned the difference is definitely a key place. I’m also on Twitter @jonmertz and as well as at thin difference.

Outstanding. Jon I just want to say thank you once again. We really had fun with you and learn a lot from the things that you shared with us and looking forward to having you on the podcast again soon.

I really appreciate it Saul. Thank you so much.

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.

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