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Wearable Pain Relief Technology Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Frank McGillin, Chief Commercial Officer at NeuroMetrix

Wearable Pain Relief Technology Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Leveraging on digital technologies to address health care problems

Wearable Pain Relief Technology Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

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Opioids Not Necessary with Wearable Pain Relief with Frank McGillin, Chief Commercial Officer at NeuroMetrix (transcribed by Sonix)

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

Saul Marquez: And welcome back to the podcast. Saul Marquez here, today I have the outstanding Frank McGillin. He’s the Chief Commercial Officer at NeuroMetrix. Frank brings to NeuroMetrix over 20 years of experience building successful high growth consumer brands. Most recently at Philips Oral Care and Johnson and Johnson. At Philips, Frank was responsible for building the global oral care business of sonic care which many of you all may be familiar with. Use the product to become the number one brand and nearly one billion dollar U.S. power toothbrush market. During his career he’s launched over 50 new products and product upgrades and managed businesses across markets including diagnostic imaging health care informatics, medical devices, dental, and consumer technology. So his really well-rounded experience in the business side of health care is going to be really interesting to dive into. So it’s a pleasure to have you on the podcast Frank.

Frank McGillin: Thanks, Saul.

Saul Marquez: So what is it that got you into the business to begin with?

Frank McGillin: Well you know I think the thing I really like about the health care business is that you get to work on big hairy problems. What’s more fundamental to society than the health of people. So you’ve got some huge huge issues to deal with and there are interesting challenges but at the end of the day you’re helping people live better lives.

Saul Marquez: Couldn’t agree with you more. It’s definitely a big part of reason I chose to get in and and so you find yourself here, you’ve been with various companies, you’ve helped launch various products successfully. What would you say a hot topic that needs to be on the mind of every leader in healthcare today?

Frank McGillin: Well I think digital therapeutics is an area that really needs more attention. And I think what it does it really connects the dots between the patient or that person who’s suffering from a chronic condition. It connects with data and learning and it also talks to outcomes. I think unfortunately much of health care is done with with a dearth of information with and without really bringing the patient point of view into mind. And when you think about some of the big challenges we have with chronic disease you know so much of chronic disease is lifestyle related from diet to activity levels you know things like diabetes and that you know really looking at how can you change behavior. How can you change different aspects of that person’s life when they’re not in the doctor’s office or not in the hospital that can have pretty profound impact in terms of the person’s overall health.

Saul Marquez: It definitely is something that resonates and a lot of folks take a look at this behavior change question as it’s sort of like it’s divided right. There’s the people that believe it could be done and there’s a people that believe that it can’t be done. What camp are you in and imagine you’re probably using a digital therapeutic to work with whatever your stance is.

Frank McGillin: Yeah I think absolutely can be done. I think the challenges that is too many approaches have just been like you know if we only educate people more to educate them about quitting smoking or if we educate them about eating better or you know fitting and exercise that’s all we need to do and if that doesn’t work with to shout louder we’ll just turn up the volume and then all of a sudden magically start working out work. Yeah. I mean if you look at diet for example you know often reason people are eating, not eating good food it’s a time constraint it’s access to healthy food if you’re in an underserved market. So I think a large part of this behavior change is really getting back and understanding what’s the root cause and not just assuming that you know the answer. And you know we’re just going to kind of ramp my answer down down your throat. We see too many failed programs around behavior change. And again I think it gets back to really understanding what’s the problem you’re trying to solve and really what are some of those attitudes. What are some of the challenges that the that person whose behavior you’re trying to solve is facing.

Saul Marquez: That’s a really interesting perspective and sort of the problem behind the problem right.

Frank McGillin: Yeah.

Saul Marquez: Yeah. So tell us a little bit about NeuroMetrix, the focus that you all take and what is it that you guys do and why?

Frank McGillin: Yeah yeah well you know we’re a neuro technology digital health company and we’re our expertise is in the area of neuro technology. So you know we came out of M.I.T. and we for about 20 years we’ve been selling really innovative diagnostic test for degenerative nerve disease things like carpal tunnel syndrome diabetic neuropathy and more recently we’ve applied that expertise to the area of chronic pain. Just looking at the epidemic portion of how chronic pain is affecting the US population.

Saul Marquez: And there’s definitely a huge need for this when I think of chronic pain it’s it’s a big problem maybe something that is the reason for or part of the reason for the opioid epidemic when you and your organization have approached problems like these maybe you could give us an example of how you’ve created results by doing things differently.

Frank McGillin: Yeah. Yeah. So you know it started on our diagnostic business that one of our are leading test is for diabetic neuropathy and understanding and listening to a lot of the challenges people diabetic neuropathy have. One thing you heard was diabetic nerve pain and learning more and more that not only is a major issue but the current solutions really aren’t really aren’t highly effective. So yeah if you look at the range of pharmaceutical approach which are the most common you’ve got opioids with you pretty obvious downsides. Fun fact you know this was last year about 300 million prescriptions for opioids in the U.S. which number one prescribed drug. A lot of opioids that’s a lot opioids and you wonder why there’s some problems. But even if you look at some of the other medications that are used for chronic pain patients just don’t like them. They cause groggy ness they put people in a fog. So what we heard loud and clear was people, people are looking for an alternative. And we looked at a category at Tech 50 year old technology called tense trans containing electrical nerve stimulation which you know it’s been around for 50 years. It’s used but it’s not widely used and it’s not because it’s not an effective technology for treating pain. The limitation is that it’s really hard to use. Right. And it’s also the typical designs and the typical products for really not user friendly with wires and cables and buttons and knobs and just not designed to get the best results. So we really said well how do we take sort of a wearable technology approach to that category. How do we think about applying miniaturization to batteries. How do we think about from a digital health and built all that into really a next generation tense technology and that’s what we launched with well.

Saul Marquez: Very well now you know I think of all of the side effects of diabetes, it’s really a terrible terrible thing that to get and then to have to deal with the side effects particularly like you know people that that end up getting type 2 diabetes and lifestyle choices. You’ve got this device that helps people diagnose their diabetic neuropathy a lot of people end up getting limbs cut off because of this. Tell us a little bit about how it works and how it help people avoid that problem.

Frank McGillin: Well you know on our diagnostics part of our business a lot of the challenge was with diabetic neuropathy or early diagnosis. You can do early intervention and you are DPN check product is provides a really simple way to screen early for early signs of diabetic neuropathy but I think you know if you look at diabetes, you look at also in the chronic pain space you know a lot of the challenge for someone suffering from a condition is these lifestyle changes and pain is a major one of This major obstacles in terms of positive lifestyle modification. So if you’re diabetic one of the best things you can probably do is get more active, helps manage your blood sugars on you know helps manage your weight. And you know chronic person with lower back pain for example on although they don’t want to move there’s a lot of research on a lot of data that shows that being active is really important and helpful. So to some extent it’s the diagnosis is important but I think how can we empower people to make some of those changes that will help them kind of get back to their life.

Saul Marquez: That’s so key and it’s neat that you guys have been able to make a device that is consumer friendly. It gives them data that gives them suggestions to make changes with the development of a product like this. I’m sure you had some setbacks maybe you could share a setback that you had and what you learned from it.

Frank McGillin: Yeah yeah like you think it is you know one instance back when does it fill up so we tried to launch sonic care in Germany in the German market for the first time and we fell flat in our face and now was a time when in the US market things were on fire we really cracked what we thought was the code in terms of how to market a device both through the dental professional but also directly to the consumer. And we basically said we’re going to take that playbook and bring it to Germany. We really failed to take into consideration was German dentist than American dentist we’re really different. If you think both it started attitude really towards how they thought about preventative care workflow is completely different to use of dental hygienist than a practice was very rare in the German market. So what we learned then that was you know again it’s a matter of understanding your customer. I think you know it also kind of plays a place in the fact point of just test things learn fast and adapt. So that’s what we did.

Saul Marquez: You know that’s so interesting. The approach may maybe that could have been taken is hey let’s learn more about the dentists here because they might be different and then adjust their playbook if necessary.

Frank McGillin: Yeah yeah well I think it was a little bit of hubris on our point because we were so successful in the US we were had such a strong relationship with the dental professionals that again we just we I think just missed the mark. Good news is how we’ve recover you know at this point. Every success Phil says very successful business in that market.

Saul Marquez: That’s good. That’s good. So what was the tweak that you guys had to make to get it to work in Germany?

Frank McGillin: I think I was talking in their language and the story in the US market was preventative care will that for you up to do all these higher end procedures and aesthetic procedures and aesthetic dentistry in the US is very popular very high margin business where the Germans it was more about the health aspects. Really talking more about periodontal disease and rate of disease prevention. So it was much more of a scientific play as opposed to a business practice building play.

Saul Marquez: Very cool.

Frank McGillin: So yeah.

Saul Marquez: That’s really interesting. And I think the same is true here and when you think of products that you’re you’re coming to market with in particular as it relates to health informatics and I think there’s so many micro cultures within the general health care space that you really have to treat each not completely differently but tune into their particular language as you called and also their hot buttons.

Frank McGillin: Yeah. Yeah I understand what motivates them. You know sometimes it’s health sometimes it’s money sometimes it’s visibility and sort of prestige and I guess if you guess wrong you’re going to be to try to push really hard on something that doesn’t matter to them.

Saul Marquez: Yeah that really great highlight and listeners want to note because it is definitely one that I think is a universal and one of those principles that you take wherever you go. It will definitely serve you well. So thanks for that. Would you say one of your proudest leadership experiences has been to date?

Frank McGillin: Yeah I mean really proud of what we’ve done in the past four years here at NeuroMetrix with the launch of well wearable pain relief technology and I think it starts with what we hear from our users. You know we hear stories from people who just were desperate desperate for relief from their pain. They say “I’ve tried everything. I’m at the end of my rope. I’m suicidal” and hearing folks say that you know they’re able to do live a normal life again. So that’s been really satisfying and it’s been fun the fact that you know we’ve been charting on treading in uncharted waters that talking about a wearable technology for pain and educating both the end user as well as clinicians that this really is a viable alternative to medication and getting people to actually understand that this is sound science. You know Americans in particular are so ingrained in us that if you have an ailment you take two pills take two pills in the morning and here we’re saying that now we’re actually tapping your central nervous system and use electricity to actually alter your perception of pain. So it’s been an interesting challenge and how do you communicate that and build a business around a whole new paradigm for treating a chronic condition.

Saul Marquez: It’s fascinating. So you guys are going from the outside in and you know I my mind goes to neuro modulation and the work being done there. This is sort of an extension of that or how would you classify it?

Frank McGillin: Oh it’s absolutely neuro modulation. Yeah. So again getting back to tense technology transportation is electoral nerve stimulation was developed like 50 years ago by Medtronic and it was used as basically a vehicle to test if some was a good candidate for an implantable spinal stimulator. It’s a little more challenging since you’re delivering the nerve stimulation through skin. So it’s a little more challenging but you know if you look at with advanced electronics batteries that are battery etc etc. Others are able to do a lot of stuff at a fraction of the cost and not and basically.

Saul Marquez: Yeah. And the key is non-invasively.

Frank McGillin: Yeah.

Saul Marquez: You know not only the risk that’s associated with invasive procedures but also the cost.

Frank McGillin: Yeah absolutely. You know planning a spinal stimulator could be a fifty thousand dollar procedure. Yeah we’re effectively doing yeah. And I can’t say we’re we’re equivalents but yeah we’re effectively doing a similar approach. But it was three hundred dollar device.

Saul Marquez: Wow and I was going to ask you. So it’s 300 bucks most likely something that folks could purchase through their HSA. Right.

Frank McGillin: You know it’s an over-the-counter class class to device. In fact even our app is part of our 5 10K filing but it’s over the counter so folks can use HSA dollars if they have a FSA or HSA account or a cash pay if not.

Saul Marquez: I think that’s cool. And I think it’s really neat Frank that you’ve you’ve decided to continue your focus on the consumer aspects of health care you know because a lot of people are afraid of saying man you know B to C is tough. Like I really don’t I’m afraid of going there. And what is it that attracts you to this?

Frank McGillin: You know I think I really like getting close to the end user and understanding and seeing how we can help people. And I think if you look at the major trends people are getting much more involved in their health care because they have to. And I think with new technologies there’s so many opportunities to put the power into that person’s hands and really help them improve their health. Again for the bulk of their life that they’re not in that doctors you know in that doctor’s office or that physician’s direct care.

Saul Marquez: Yeah I think that’s really neat. And I always harp on this say with the growing deductible amounts we are being forced to look at more options before considering taking that whatever task or going to that assigned place for the MRI or taking that risk for that surgery having a device like yours with three hundred bucks. Listen it’s a very small outlay with potential chance that it may work.

But it does challenge you to be providing real value for that consumer that patient when they MRI is free you know. Okay. Well no big deal but people are challenges every day. Show me why it works. In a case you’ll hear people complain “oh it’s so expensive it’s not covered by insurance.” If you’ll go on our Facebook page for example people will come back and say this things changed my life. You know what are you gonna pay for being able to travel or walking out and go out with your kids. So it’s encouraging but at the end of day again you have to be able to prove that you’re delivering value for the money.

Saul Marquez: For sure for sure. That’s very interesting. So Frank tell us about an exciting project that you guys are working on today.

Frank McGillin: Well we’ve been collecting a ton of data since we’ve been on the market. So as we’re connect the device we’re able to collect both usage data sleep data activity gait as well as self reported pain data. So we’re really looking at applying the you know the data we’ve collected from over 70,000 users at a gazillion data points to actually build an even smarter device. We’ve got some news coming. We’re going to launch it at the CES Consumer Electronics Show in January. I can’t really tell you any details but we’re really excited about it.

Saul Marquez: Man that’s very interesting. That’s very interesting. Well we’ll have to definitely stay tuned with what you guys are up to. When is CES?

Frank McGillin: Starts January 8th.

Saul Marquez: OK so it’s around the corner. This is exciting time for you guys.

Frank McGillin: Yeah. And it’s really interesting how CES is involved in the last five years. I mean it really healthcare is becoming a huge part of it. You mentioned neuro modulation there’s a big section on neuro modulation at CES. Who would have thought.

Saul Marquez: I know right. That’s so crazy. Love it. Well you guys I think are doing an excellent project a great thing for people there. So keep up what you do and getting close to the end here. Frank I’ve got a leadership course that we’re going to do a quick syllabus with a lightning round for the listeners five questions followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners. You ready?

Frank McGillin: Excellent.

Saul Marquez: All right. What’s the best way to improve health care outcomes?

Frank McGillin: List the patient in the process.

Saul Marquez: What is the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Frank McGillin: Avoid falling in love the technology rather than solving a real problem.

Saul Marquez: Amen. How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

Frank McGillin: Yeah. Look at what innovators are doing outside the industry. Also huge podcast fan you can learn a lot on your evening commute.

Saul Marquez: Love that. What is one area of focus that drives everything in your organization?

Frank McGillin: It’s really about helping that chronic pain suffer. You know these people feel abandoned. They feel stigmatized by the whole opioid crisis and we were able to make a real difference for them.

Saul Marquez: What is your number one success habit?

Frank McGillin: I think getting up early and spending some time out running so I can think about what I need to do

Saul Marquez: Some good thinking time.

Frank McGillin: Absolutely.

Saul Marquez: Love that. What book would you recommend to the listeners Frank?

Frank McGillin: Yeah. My current favorite is Homo Deus, a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s really fascinating. Written from his story Israeli history. But he thinks he talks about things like hey I am bioengineering and kind of projects like the impact it could have in humanity in the next hundred years.

Saul Marquez: Very cool.

Frank McGillin: It’s a little bit scary.

Saul Marquez: Oh man interesting Homo Deus. Folks you could find this syllabus, linked to Homo Deus, a link to Frank’s company, just go to outcomesrocket.health and you’ll find them there. Just type in neurometrix in the search bar and you’ll find this episode ready for you to review once again. Before we conclude, Frank I love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place for the listeners could follow you or reach out to you.

Frank McGillin: Wise one. Yes Saul thank you for inviting me to join. I think you’re sharing a lot of information which is which is awesome. You know folks want to connect with me. Probably you use ways. Yeah. My twitter handle is fmcgillin, @fmcgillin.

Saul Marquez: Outstanding. Frank, this has been a pleasure. You’ve done what you guys are doing man. You know the people need you and we’re looking forward to hearing what that new product is here in the next month.

Frank McGillin: Awesome. Thanks Saul.

Thanks for listening to the outcomes rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration, and so much more.

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