Wearables and Their Power to Improve Outcomes with Pierre-Jean “PJ” Cobut, CEO & Co-Founder at Spryhealth

Wearables and Their Power to Improve Outcomes with Pierre-Jean "PJ" Cobut, CEO & Co-Founder at Spryhealth

Thanks for tuning in to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we chat with today's most successful and inspiring health leaders. I want to personally invite you to our first inaugural Healthcare Thinkathon. It's a conference that the Outcomes Rocket and the IU Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Sciences has teamed up on. We're going to put together silo crushing practices just like we do here on the podcast except it's going to be live with inspiring keynotes and panelists. To set the tone, we're conducting a meeting where you can be part of drafting the blueprint for the future of healthcare. That's right. You could be a founding member of this group of talented industry and practitioner leaders. Join me and 200 other inspiring health leaders for the first Inaugural Healthcare Thinkathon. It's an event that you're not going to want to miss. And since there's only 200 tickets available you're going to want to act soon. So how do you learn more? Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference. For more details on how to attend that's outcomesrocket.health/conference and you'll be able to get all the info that you need on this amazing healthcare thinkathon. That's outcomesrocket.health/conference.

Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast where we chat with today's most successful one inspiring health leaders. Man we talked to so many awesome folks here on the podcast but today I have a special treat for you. His name is Pierre-Jean Cobut also known as PJ. So wanna tell you a little bit about P.J. P.J. is the co-founder of Spry health. Spry health has a mission to help chronically ill patients receive proactive care and help them stay out of the hospital. He got his MBA from Stanford. Pierre is an experienced entrepreneur with expertise in strategic and online marketing sales and finance. Pierre is passionate about empowering people to make positive change and he's doing that at Spry health. Chronic diseases are a problem that we're all faced with, people that we love are faced with and oftentimes don't know what to do it could be confusing and for health systems too are big confusing area about how to manage populations well I had the pleasure of introducing P.J. Cobut to this podcast so we could talk a little bit more about spry health does and his experiences in health care. So P.J. It's a pleasure to have you on.

Yes pleasure being here. Thanks for having me.

Absolutely. Now is there anything in that intro that I left out that maybe you want to share with the listener or something you want them to know about you.

I think that's a pretty good intro. The mission of the company is probably most important to me and as he said chronic condition is a really complicated problem. It affects a lot of people and often people that have to struggle with a lot of other difficulties socio-economic difficulties as it's a problem that we really really care about here. So thanks for putting that in the center of this intro.

Absolutely my friend and he is a huge issue. You know and one that you guys are tackling excited to go into some of the things that Spry health you and your team there are doing. But before we get into that, I'd love to kick it off with understanding more why you decided to get into health care.

Yeah absolutely. So this is my my first healthcare company. For me health care has been you know something that's been on my mind for a long time I was a premed in college back in the early 2000s. So initially wanted to be a physician but then pretty quickly realized that you know med school and the lifestyle position wasn't really what I wanted to do and so you know some took another route. And did an undergrad and a master's in engineering and business and worked in consumer goods for a while and started another company back when I was still living in Europe and you know decided that they're coming from a time where you've invested a lot in your education and your career. And there comes a time where I think you really have to back home and really do what you care about and what makes you happy. So for me that was starting help your company and because I found that to be you know I guess it was an old dream of mine. And I find that to be a super impactful industry where so much change is needed where were opportunities for business are really there where specially in this country in the past few years there's been big changes on the regulatory front and then create other opportunities to really kind of the right time for me.

That's outstanding man. What a great background. You know you went from wanting to go into med school but then had the foresight of seeing sort of the quality of life things that sort of clash with your idealism and now you're from a small circle had some successful entrepreneurial ventures doing which you love. You are so cool. Exactly. That's so cool man. So now Spry, so with spry healthy. How would you sum up in a few words what you guys do what problem you guys solve and who do you solve it for them?

So we're focused on providing people who have chronic conditions with the right care at the right time. And what that means is when you're honestly it doesn't matter who you are. You put a actually someone who is at risk who has several chronic conditions the time that goes on between your interactions with a physician the other route large even someone who has T-3 chronic illnesses don't see a physician maybe three 4 times a year for about 10 minutes. But what happens in between. That's really kind of what we're focusing on is understanding how someone's conditions evolving over time when they're not under the direct supervision of a physician. Understanding you know how their physiology is changing so that when something doesn't look quite right we can get them help. That's the idea.

Excellent. So PJ are your customers health care organizations that aid the patients themselves, are they ACOs?

Yes. So I mean we're still relatively early on our journey with customers. But the sweet spot for us is working with payers that are providing some level of care. That's what we found to be really the best the best place for us. So you said you know a CEO's health plan like Medicare Advantage plans that are providing some level of care France's primary care. Obviously all the way to big integrated systems that are doing absolutely everything and then that's something that we've found to be the right spot for us because first they have the financial incentives to really keep people out of the hospital and drive the best possible outcomes. But then second they also understand the realities of what it's like to provide care for this population. You know that is the higher risk and more complex and so we'll work with patients the patients don't pay us. We work directly with the health care organizations.

Got it. Fair enough. PJ hot topic what do you think needs to be on the top of every health leader's mind today and how should they be addressing it?

There is one thing that I'm particularly interested in that has become sort of a hot topic but in my mind often is mostly words and pretty marketing but without much action behind that. And that's you know the idea of patient centric is I think it's kind of interesting how everybody just works in healthcare and is focused on you know driving the process and building value etc. etc.. But sometimes we forget that healthcare is fundamentally about people that are this idea of patient centricity is something that's come up a lot in the recent year or two maybe. But I think there's still a lot of work to be done. And I think in our particular space that you can kind of generalize under the category remote monitoring right to really understanding what's going on with people when they're outside of the walls in the hospital the traditional way of doing this has been well you package like five to 10 medical devices and a big box. You send them to somebody at their home and you tell them hey like why don't you use these every day maybe twice a day. Write down data with data and then that way we can help you. And that's like in my mind that is the absolute opposite of patient centricity because it's really not thinking about what's it like to be someone with multiple chronic conditions. And then I think you know this is something that I care a lot about and talk a lot about that you should go and walk a mile in the shoes of someone like that and really understand what it is that they need. What are the biggest things they struggle with. How can we build a product that engages them and bring them value in a way that they've never seen before that really helps them navigate the difficulties of facing everyday a chronic condition or several. So that's not something I care a lot about but I think some healthcare organizations are really starting to work on. But as I said I think there's still a lot of progress that can be done.

As such a great point PJ, how do we bridge that gap year opinion what's the best way to bridge it?

I mean I think it's basic empathy I think is the way I think about it and in our company we spend a lot of time on user research which basically get out of Silicon Valley. You go to places where technology isn't really a thing or not. Not that much you go meet the people that are potentially going to be your users who are older who maybe live in government housing, who don't have a steady paycheck are struggling with congestive heart failure COPD chronic kidney disease diabetes and you spend a lot of time with these people and you ask them a lot of really tough questions. And a lot of really personal questions that you really get to understand. What's it like. And I think this is something that's obviously really really needed and really true for startups and even more generally speaking for med tech companies even the large ones I guess would maybe even benefit more of this. But I think even when your paper for instance really sending people to understand what it's like to know how to serve them that I think is really critical. And again you know you definitely see companies do a really good job of this. There's a lot more that can be done.

Now you've highlighted a really great great topic there PJ. You know we definitely have to understand what our patients are going through better and higher. Right. I mean with so many factors and so many players in the system the system is built in such a way for it to be B2B so the the consumer the Haitian sort of gets left and the other thought here is while we walk a mile in the patient's shoes I was talking to my mom the other day and she was telling me about my grandfather. He's got diabetes and it's from a caregiver perspective. Her and her sisters are taking care of him. And they caught them coming back from the store with a bag of coke, Coca-Cola you know and my grandfather loves the Coca-Cola man. So he's just like sneaking Coca Cola's into his house. So what do you do. How can you support caregivers because they're the heart of this too. Right.

Huge huge. We've spent a lot of time talking to caregivers as well and understanding their view of what it's like and what's difficult. And I think companies like ours again small or big have a huge role to play here where there really can be a win win win. So win for the patient and a win for the caregiver and a win for the health care organization. But it just requires a lot of work and a lot of time trying to really understand what makes these relationships complicated and what you can provide that you know kind of reconcile everybody. That's a really interesting topic in my mind.

For sure. Hey. So P.J. tell us a little bit about how Spry health has created results or improved outcomes by doing things differently.

So we were about four years old though as a company and you know maybe two and a half years of that time has it has basically been pure are in the building the technology that's enabling us to do what we do. So we're starting to roll out hybrids. Now I'm starting to see people really interface with with the product and with the technology. So I think it's a little early still to say that we've really improved our terms. But I'll tell you when you know when we do sit down with users and we don't want to buy them right. We talk a lot about their issues and what's difficult etc. etc. But then we always finish that time with them by a presentation or what we do and why we're here and what this product could do for them and that's a really proud moment I think when people feel like oh we're like this is really amazing like the idea of giving them a product that looks consumer feels consumer but is really medical a product that enables them to always be connected to the physician. You know if anything looks a little wrong that somebody will help them. So this idea of having a sort of a safety net really. And the idea of helping them with medical information but is translated in a way that they understand and that they can really act on that gives them you know the peace of mind that they're looking for. Kind of the reaction that we get from people is always really heartwarming. So I don't know if that's really an outcome just yet but as you know in a sense it's a it's an indication that this is a product that will really help people with what they need.

Yeah it'll resonate you know. Absolutely. And while you guys are early on I think you're doing it the right way. You're doing all the research necessary at pushing out solutions that you think may work. You're doing all the hard work getting all the answers. There's a lot of companies that don't do that and they're faced with the bad news that it's not going to work. So you know the other thought for you P.J. and your team is you guys have done four years of work and four years of research. What you know and what you have learned is valuable and a platform where you can disseminate this information to others can also be something of an interesting platform of information for cash flow that will help other companies become successful in this space.

Yes absolutely.

Just as an option but definitely not something that you guys have to do or don't want to do but just kind of something that came to mind. Right. We don't get a lot of the time here on the podcast talking about breaking down silos and what I find is a lot of times people do the same work over and over again and you know resources are wasted.

You know I think that's absolutely true. The way we you know sort of leverage that all of that research all that learning that we've done so far obviously goes right into our business and our product definition and how we talk about it with companies that may end up being customers. But it's also doing things like talking about it because the reality is these themes and the methods they're not new, they're just not necessarily always applied in healthcare where the needs are huge. And honestly every company that is working on anything that is remotely close to healthcare and improving outcomes should really be doing that. So whether it's doing podcasts or mentoring other entrepreneurs you know that are there at an earlier stage in your journey like all of those are impactful.

That's right on point brother. I really agree and it's awesome to have you here to chat about some of these things. Can you share with the listeners a time when you setback and what you learn from that set back?

Do you have all day? And what we learned. Sure. Yeah I mean this is maybe something that is really interesting to people who are starting to think about starting a company of their own and maybe are good or students or you know just kind of in the early stages of thinking about that. You know I think one mistake we made early on when we were looking for our first round of funding and this is I guess it isn't necessarily healthcare related to really apply to any startup that is looking to raise money. But we know we were fortunate enough to have met an investor that we had a relationship with that eventually grew into him telling us he was interested in leading the rays of our seed which was really exciting for us because you know we could definitely use the money. And also we really liked him as you know that was a really great moment and the error we made as we thought well you know everybody's always told us when you get a term she is like that's the part. After that it's always easy. So we kind of went around town. We had some other investors that we knew and we thought well now for sure we're going to raise that around two weeks or something and then we can go back to work. But I think what we realized was a real mistake that first of all that none of this is true and investors don't just throw money at you just just because you have a term sheet is because you have shown some progress. And it kind of made us learn the hard way really the importance of managing relationships on that side too which obviously you do a lot and you know internally with employees. You know we build a lot of spend a lot of time building these relationships. But with investors to kind of decoupling the risk around the business risk and the personal risk in many more time with investors when you don't actually need money to understand what they're about so they can understand what you're about. And then when the time comes up where you actually need money then they already know you they're already comfortable with you and then the discussion shifts a little bit and we kind of realize doing all of those in the span of an hour just was never going to happen then. So that was a really difficult time for us are kind of getting hit in the face with all these realities of being an entrepreneur. Fortunately we did learn a little bit from them and managed a lot better the next time around.

Such a great share, PJ. And now you guys are investing the time up front. I forget what the saying that is like dig your well before you are thirsty. Yes I would definitely yeah dig your well before you're thirsty and solicitors take that into consideration. I mean I think PJ's is offering here his wisdom is is one that comes from experience and one that you should definitely take into consideration if you're a startup looking to raise some funds. Really appreciate you sharing that PJ.

Absolutely.

So tell us about the other side of the coin, PJ. Tell us about a time where you were most proud of in your leadership career.

Yeah that's a great question. There's several things that come to mind. I think it's interesting because when you're sort of at the top of the organization and it doesn't really matter how big or small. But I find that to always be true or seem to be true that you know there's never really going to be somebody who's going to be giving you pat in the back and telling you a good job because that's where you're supposed to do for everyone else. Right. So I found my own journey as an entrepreneur and as a leader of this organization to try and find my own sources of joy and pride. And couple things that have come to mind. I think one that we already discussed that when I talk with a patient or you know someone with a chronic condition and understand their issues and then when they give me feedback on what we're doing and the way we're doing it that's always a huge huge high for me to hear how much we could help improve their lives. I think the other one that is kind of more of a constant feeling that I have are when I look around that team that we've assembled and you know how smart and friendly and caring all these people are and how well they work together that's a huge huge moment of pride for me. I think that's the best feeling in the world and when you do what I do.

Yeah. It's a great point. PJ You know I mean it is kind of thankless when you're when you're hearing the organization and assembling great teams it's hard and it's hard to find great people that are aligned with your mission. But it sounds like you guys have done a really great job about that.

Yeah I mean it's I think it's it's hard and it takes time. But what we've always done and you know now that we're starting to be at a point where other people are going to start to make hiring decisions. What we always tell them is don't settle. Really have a high bar. Every single time and that means it will take more time to get somebody on board. Did you have to take all the boxes as you said like do they really care about this mission you know. Do you want to. You want to feel privileged they are working with that person. You know it's either because of who they are or their technical jobs or whatever. But never ever ever lower that bar. But I think that pretty well so far.

Love that PJ. You're setting a high standard there and yeah it's exciting it's exciting yes you are actually. I mean high stakes right.

Exactly. Like when you think about the start of journey. I mean it's really you against the world which makes it a little bit insane. But the only way it's going to work is if you have the absolute best people around you to to work with you on that. There's no way around it.

I love that man. Yeah. One of my favorite sayings is you are the average of your five closest peers and if you hire somebody that has a low average they're going to pull your group down.

Yeah or up. Right.

Exactly.

The other expression I heard from I can't remember who it was. But it was somebody who was a guest speaker when I was in business school who said his objective as a leader was to hire people that were much smarter than him so that he would be the absolute dumbest person in the room..

Love it man I love it. Yeah and I had a chance to stop by your site and take a look at some of the very talented folks on your team. No doubt some heavy hitters there. Congrats and kudos to you and your partner for assembling such a great group.

Certainly that's one of the best compliments you can make.

Amen. It's the truth. And listeners by the way if you're curious about what spry health does and you want to check them out a little bit further go to spryhealth.com and you'll find their site their solutions. And what they do how they do it and news updates that they post up on there and definitely check them out. spryhealth.com. So.

And job openings as well.

And job openings so they're looking for new roles. They're growing company folks so check them out. Whether he be a provider looking for solutions for your chronically ill or looking for if you're an individual looking to make a career leap into a company that's innovative with the high standards culture spry as a place you got to check out. So I mean it's crazy how fast time flies. But this has definitely been a lot of fun.

It really does.

Let's pretend. PJ You and I are building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in the business of healthcare. It's the 101 course on P.J. Cobut. And so. Here's the man, we're going to do a lightning round so speedy answers for questions followed by your all time favorite book. You ready.

Sure.

All right. What's the best way to improve health care outcomes?

Put people first.

What is the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

I say I'm going to try to be super short and this is something we see a lot in Silicon Valley. But you know healthcare isn't an industry where you have to follow the rules so go fast and break things is not a part of it.

How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant chang?

This is where I started. Do I think we are the change right. So it's all about innovation it's all about spending a lot of time with with a lot of different people in this industry getting the best possible opinions and then going as fast as you can.

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

I'm going to repeat myself. It is people patient first. What do they need. What is their biggest issue that isn't just medical? Sometimes it's logistics getting to the hospital. Sometimes it's behavioral biases so thinking bigger and according to a more dimension. That's the most important.

Awesome. What would you recommend as part of this syllabus PJ.

Well it's a book that has nothing to do with healthcare but you know being a French speaker I'll have to go with a French author. The Little Prince by something that I recommend is a classic. So probably a lot of people read it but it is in my mind one of the most. One of the best books about personal growth personal development and relationships with which applies everywhere does not have to be about healthcare.

That's wonderful. What a great recommendation. Always like the off the beaten path recommendations. You need a break from the health care books. You know the business.

You do, yes, absolutely.

Love that listeners. If you've listened to this before. Say it again. All these amazing resources are transcripts the show notes you could find all those and outcomesrocket.health/spry. And there you'll be able to find a link to the books the company as well as all the things that we've discussed it's been so much fun. PJ even the good things have to and so what I'd like to do is just offer you an opportunity to give the listeners a closing thought. And then the best place where they could get in touch with you or follow you.

Yeah absolutely. You know I think what I said earlier when we started the interview around there's so much to do in healthcare. Go and find something that you really really care about and go make a change. There is so much to do. So few people doing it. And I do fundamentally believe that doing what you want and having an impact is really what makes somebody happy. And if it's not done then you know what else. There's no other point that would be my parting thought and to you know follow us on Twitter. Twitter handle is spryhealth as you said spry we post a lot on LinkedIn as well. Easy to find I'm on on Twitter too I post a lot about health care but all kinds of other things my Twitter handle is pjcobut and that's about it.

Outstanding. P.J. Hey thanks for that those words of encouragement listeners. You can't just be somebody that watches on the sidelines. If you have a vision like P.J. said, go for it. And there's not enough people doing enough so be one of the few that stands up and goes for it like PJ suggests. PJ this has been fun. It's been inspirational. Really appreciate the time that you've dedicated to us.

Yeah well that thank you so much. I really appreciate all the questions and also had a good time. Yeah. Thanks so much, Saul

Thanks tuning in to 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 to 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 and be one of the 200 that will participate. Looking forward to seeing you there.

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Recommended Book:

The Little Prince

Best Way to Contact PJ:

@pjcobut

@SpryHealth

Mentioned Link:

http://spryhealth.com/

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