Episode: 210

Assessing the Impacts of Social Determinants on Population Health with Rob Fields, SVP, Chief

Public Digital Health with Stefan Buttigieg, Co-Founder at Health 2.0 Malta

Episode 288

Recommended Book:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Best Way to Contact Stefan:

Linkedin – Stefan

Company Website:

Health 2.0 Malta

Public Digital Health with Stefan Buttigieg, Co-Founder at Health 2.0 Malta (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 health care leaders and influencers. And now your host Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez: And welcome back to the podcast. Today I have the outstanding Dr. Stefan Buttigieg. He is the Co-founder at Health 2.0 Malta. He’s a Specialist Trainee in the Public Health Medicine sector with a special interest in Clinical Informatics, Social Media, and Digital Health. He’s also an author, tutor, and digital health consultant focused on creating transformative and effective change. He’s focused on expanding his knowledge within the field of public health. And he’s doing a great deal to empower his country to take on Digital Health Metrics and opportunities. So I’m really privileged to welcome Dr. Stefan to the podcast. Welcome.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Thanks. Thanks Saul for bringing me here today. It was definitely a wonderful opportunity to connect with people who are passionate about from all about this to and from all over the world. Yeah.

Saul Marquez: Hey man it’s a pleasure to have you here. And what a beautiful country Malta. I wish I was there with you but I’ll be there in mind.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Yeah. I’m actually right here now. So you know just pop on over.

Saul Marquez: So Dr. Stefan what got you in the medicine to begin with?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Okay so definitely when you start off your meds because you start off as an intern and you actually deal with situations from patient to patient. So it’s like more of an individual relationship but over time you kind of start realizing that in reality you’re also dealing with the bigger picture. And that’s what’s motivating me to get into public health and even more how to get into digital health because digital health is about the intersection of technology and healthcare and bringing them together in such a way that you won’t even realize that technology is there in the first place. So that’s what’s motivating hand-to-mouth being the country you know we have like a business and ultimately there’s a lot of interesting work to be done there. And there are some number of changes and we can get better and better. So that’s something which really motivates me, the bigger picture.

Saul Marquez: Yeah that’s fascinating. And with countries like Malta the opportunities to make an impact in public health they feel like maybe is more empowering you can maybe have a little bit more direct control given the smaller population but you still presenting with your challenges. I’m excited to dive into some of your learnings. What would you say Stefan is a topic that needs to be on health care leaders minds today?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: I think we have to start with the basics. And one of the things that we have to think about digitization. If we don’t take that first step digitization and isn’t just the digitization of literally turning a paper document into something that acts on it but it’s more than that. It’s about digitization of our workflow. Whereas before you would have to write the name on each and every paper before. Now that single person we have to focus mostly on the context, on the medical history, how going to bring that into the equation but it’s also a change of how we do things workflow workflow workflow that means that you have to see before for example you used to take the parameters and you have to write each and every parameter this from nursing point of view. But now the parameters are being automatically taken. So now you have to learn how to do with 10 readings at one go and trying to understand how that changes the experience the heads correct. So it’s not just about digitization just transforming something from paper to electronic but it’s also about transformation of our workflows. So that is something very important something also super crucial and super important that we shouldn’t put aside is cybersecurity at least if you want patients to gain patients trust into what you’re doing especially when it comes to the situation of care. Then you need to get them on board and be sure that you have the cyber security and security protocols place and education not just security for the sake of security but security to help people achieve their outcomes. So to help people achieve their outcomes and gain the trust you need to create something truly effective.

Saul Marquez: I think that’s insightful for sharing. And so give us an example Dr. Stefan of some of the work that maybe you and your peers have done there and in the health organization you’re a part of that have led to better outcomes?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So I’m wearing a number of hats right now. And if you really want to measure health outcomes you need time. So right now I don’t think we’re we’re in a position to say that digitization has led to better health outcomes. I can’t say that yet. That is my academic hat but if I had to wear another hat then I could say that what I could truly measure is outcomes is like actually engaging the community. So we started building additional health community thanks to Health 2.0 Malta and starting off with that. You can see that people are interested in topic people want the process starts off with 30 second meet up with 75. So when you see something like this you see that you’ll want to make a change. Maybe it’s not so popular right now in Malta I was just getting started but actually being there and being part of his address and grassroots community it’s amazing because you can see now there are other meetings popping up there. There was a conference last year. So you see this makes sense. And maybe that’s not the measure but I think it’s not a KPI. It’s not something you want to measure but the interest is growing. I’m believing in that and that right now I would say we could say time with it now and we’re gonna be on the lookout and we’re going to see how there is a lot of good interesting measures such as health system first form its assessment and there are parts about digitization which need attention. And the fact that we have that as a baseline that really helps us in the future to look back and say oh we’ve made steps forward. And right now it’s the informative part. You know it’s the ecosystem building Kasich the head grassroots community getting people interested in getting people to question what they have right now with a question with the writing on paper, why we’re still documenting no those parameters on paper, why aren’t we picking the best ways to taking advantage of this. So that’s what I want to start doing great and that’s my motivation to get into it. Have this baby steps now.

Saul Marquez: Dr. Stefan I think that’s inspiring and questioning those assumptions is key to creating any change in health care. So it’s exciting that you’re you’ve started that and now the community is forming there in Malta. And what is possible is very exciting for the future.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: I think there is some. I have a vision for Malta too for it to be an island where people can actually test their digital health apps. So it’s going to be an island and especially us we have such a high smartphone penetration. We actually have about something about 600% or yeah I think you know I think…

Saul Marquez: So that means everybody has about six devices on average wrong about.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: But I think that let’s say we have everyone has two or more devices.

Saul Marquez: Okay.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So it’s a bit higher. It’s a bit lower than that. I apologize for that. But what we have. So that’s Oh. So that is right. So we have somewhere in the region of 600,000 devices.

Saul Marquez: Oh that’s what it were. Okay. That’s a 600.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Apologize.

Saul Marquez: It’s okay.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: But they have something of an original six hundred thousand six hundred thousand device that’s saying something. And even when it comes to Facebook penetration for example that means and how many people and what have Facebook we have like something between 300 and 250 thousand.

Saul Marquez: And how many how many residents are in Malta.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So right now we’re four hundred seventy five thousand Soviet they can of consideration the younger generation under consideration possibly the very old the very very old age group. I wouldn’t even say 60 50 to 65 because actually that is the fastest growing segment that most people use is Facebook. So there’s something there’s something going on which is quite positive. I think we need to embrace that for sure.

Saul Marquez: Fascinating. So cool folks. You know just the the opportunity to engage with somebody like Dr. Stephan who is over in Malta leading his own wave of digital health is inspiring and a testament to the fact that hey you know in healthcare there are no borders whether they be physical or water there’s a way to do it. And it’s infectious. There’s no way to stop it. So kudos to you Dr. Stefan for taking the bull by the horns and doing your work there with your colleagues in Malta. Can you share with the listeners an example of maybe a time when things didn’t work out a setback and what you learned from it?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: I would go back to the success of Health 2.0 Malta is right now. So there are two main ingredients. There is a vision there’s a team and there is the support which would be funding it could be in people attending the event and the team the team the team which actually supports you can’t do things on your own. So it’s important to have a vision because if you don’t have a vision then you don’t know you don’t know where you want to go and you don’t know how big you want to think and you don’t want and you don’t see how sustainable you want to do that. So in reality Health 2.0 Malta goes way back actually in about 2017 where I actually had the funding and I had the vision but I didn’t have the team I didn’t have time to do it I couldn’t work on it. But in a later stage in time I actually found the team the right thing to work with me. And then it was we were able to do it.

Saul Marquez: Nice.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: You have. So that is one thing. And even in the past when I started to do another startup I actually called that the startup called Saha was actually a medical doctor. And it was an app for medical doctors okay. And what I learned from that actually is the vision was there. The team was there but there were there wasn’t the funding that got it. And what’s happened is that when something is not sustainable in that regard then you know it. It was that people could be motivated people that needs that. So you always know and I think it was through this step by step and I somehow am a bit maybe a bit of a visionary. So the vision part didn’t really lack at that stage in time even though I could do things better. That’s for sure. But once but to all these little failures which maybe at the time I saw them big failures. But I didn’t realize that they were like little bumps on the way. And then which take me today to head to places you don’t want to and possibly doing something even more in the future.

Saul Marquez: That’s excellent. And so it’s that lock. Right. You know that three digit lock if you have two of the numbers you still need that third number to get it to open right. You just gotta find that that third number and you found it. And in both of these examples and it’s great you know about a year ago Stefan I had Matthew Holt on the podcast and. Yeah. And he told us some of you know his. Yeah. He’s everywhere. That guy is on an airplane right. And he was telling us about some of his early struggles to make things work and yeah I mean it’s it’s just a matter of staying in the game long enough to be able to see your vision through and making sure you have all those digits in the locks. I mean it’s a great it’s a great example. Tell us about one of your proudest moments that you had?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Okay. So definitely my right now one of my proudest moments was in the second Meetup which we didn’t had 2.0 Malta actually had just come back from 2.0 and the local friends I actually had to leave a couple of hours earlier to make it in time for the flight back home for the meetup. So got channeling of that in my.

Saul Marquez: Tight schedule.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Yeah. Very tight schedule. I think some tricks on me as well. So one of the proud moments for me is definitely seeing a room in front of me full of people. That’s right ambience and with everything set up and that was a very proud moment for me. And even better was that the fact that it wasn’t the perfect date for it because it was an evil public holiday despite all of that despite all of those obstacles and even to set out to find the right dates with my team there were some challenges as it were there. But despite all of that people showed up. People were there and it was like simply an incredible incredible time to be there and to enjoy you know and see. And then the meet up got through and we started talking again.

Saul Marquez: That’s awesome. Congratulations on that. You know it’s fun we recently did a meeting called the Health care Think a Thon and I know the feeling you know the feeling where you’re like oh my gosh is anybody going to show up. And then you do it and the room is full and you’re just like wow this is great. And then when it’s for the right people it’s really amazing.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Think-A-Ton, interesting.

Saul Marquez: The healthcare Think-A-Ton I definitely really like something. Yeah. But you know the inspiration of it was like Okay. There’s the hackathon. But we’re like we’re gonna do one we’re where we go and we’re not just gonna have speakers speaking at you it’s gonna be an opportunity for you to engage with some leaders and and it turned out to be really great. I can identify with you are with you are feeling of pride when you put this thing together especially with your tight schedule I mean holiday in place not these things but you guys still made it work so congratulations to you guys. That’s amazing.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Yeah. Thanks to the team they made it happen as well. I’m really grateful for that.

Saul Marquez: So tell us about an exciting project that you’re focused on today?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Okay so right now we’re definitely seeing how we can create more events and the variety of events that we see our sets organizing next year. This tour has conference and for sure. And taking it to the next step it and trying to build an even bigger eco system and especially trying to bring together the private industry government academia and nongovernmental organizations all in the same room and especially patients. I want patients as well to actually kind of bring together something to move this move forward. So that’s something even just to create the conversations it’s not about the speakers and related conferences are more about the network and actually getting people to talk to each other. So that’s so important because you can see all the presentations online. You can actually see what’s happening there and you can see you know or you can figure out what the person is going to talk about. But the reality the opportunities that you have to actually talk to that person and actually create a relationship that’s the value of conferences. So we’re happy we’re looking forward to bring that to monitor in one way or another it could be med tech or it could be digital and that we see a big opportunity here you know to see more of the developing also within this industry as well. So that is something that I’m looking forward to and I’m hoping that by the end of 2019 we would have created one very successful event specifically related to this to the health or Med tech.

Saul Marquez: Wow. Awesome. I think that’s exciting and and very promising for the people there and also others that are listening to this podcast that maybe you’re looking for something different to do and you want to get out of your typical meeting that you’re used to going every single year at the end of the podcast here will give you the way to contact Dr. Stefan and and maybe figure out a way to get you to Malta or his meeting because it’s definitely a destination but also their thoughts and what they’re doing over there is very very interesting. So Dr. Stefan getting close to the end of our time here today.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Already?

Saul Marquez: Yeah. Can you imagine it just flies. So I’ve got four questions for you, lightning round style we’re building a syllabus here for the listeners as the ABC’s of Dr. Stefan on how to be excellent at digital health and then a recommendation for a book that you give them. You ready?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Yeah go for it.

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

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Talking to people talking to all of their stakeholders. If you don’t talk and you try to force the solution onto someone you won’t get there.

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

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Not. I would go back to those three ingredients you know not finding the right thing not for not having the right vision and not having the right support. Be it financial or be it community.

Saul Marquez: How do you stay relevant despite constant change?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So in a big organization something like a corporate definitely you have to embrace entrepreneurship. So figure out a way to help those people who are they’re novices and they want to challenge the say will find a way to involve them.

Saul Marquez: Entrepreneurship people. I think that’s a great point. And what is the one area of focus that drives everything in your organization?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: I think definitely the motivation and the enthusiasm and that is crucial. I mean without that and without the basic one in your country they move toward they need to have something which constantly drives steps. So if you don’t have the basic enthusiasm and the basic innovation you really can’t get anywhere but you have to make sure that there is a cycle which is supporting get together.

Saul Marquez: Love it, that’s wonderful. And what book would you recommend to the listeners?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Dr. Stefan so actually I was looking through my Kindle. Yes. And I mean there wasn’t something which should have struck me but I would actually go back to basics once again. And actually one book maybe know that they recommend but one book which is struck me and I think which started me the pathway to reading was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Saul Marquez: Nice.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So that started my reading journey and thinks that it opened up a world of possibilities where I kind of wrote read so much that it led me to the possibly the second book and something which I kind of strive for is like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Saul Marquez: Yes

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So those two. But first there needed to be something to start a journey to inspire. And I’m pretty grateful for that first book.

Saul Marquez: That’s awesome. The Philosopher’s Stone. Yeah. You know ultimately it doesn’t matter where it comes from the line is it inspires and drives you to the next one and then the next one and then when you’re doing amazing things like you Dr. Stefan it’s definitely worthwhile. So appreciate you sharing those resources. Folks, you could go to outcomesrocket.health/stefan and you’re gonna get the show notes, links to resources we’ve discussed and also a full transcript of today’s interview outcomesrocket.health/stefan. Stefan we’re here we’re off to the end. I love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place where the listeners can get in touch with you.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So first of all you’re all welcome to Malta.

Saul Marquez: Thank you.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: So it is an open invite. And secondly I think it’s important to talk talk talk talk. So thanks for this conversation we learn something from each other differently. So if you want to implement something in your organization just talk. Let’s go figure out what’s the problem. Get in touch. So if you’re trying to solve something for a patient for example creating a better device that’s safe, just talk to the patient. Figure out what are his changes. Figure out what’s wrong with the device. Maybe there is a button which is incorrectly place and because of that it’s always hitting is a bell for example. Just talk to the patients talk to the stakeholders and you’ll get there and reach out and so I think that the vision should be that technology is read into an invisible layer. You don’t see it there but it’s so integrated within your workflow that it’s creating and contributing for better outcomes.

Saul Marquez: Love that and Stefan where can the listeners reach out if they wanted to connect with you?

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Okay so if you look at me by the name that’s Stefan Buttigieg you can find me everywhere literally. So you can find me on social media Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, just look up my name and you’ll find me there. Recently I reached my 5,000 friends limit. Follow me on my Facebook fan page or follow me on my public profile. And actually you can reach out and get in touch and know what I’m up to.

Saul Marquez: So outstanding Dr. Stefan and folks again just google Stefan Buttigieg, you’re going to see that there and wow Dr. Stefan, Time flies when you’re having fun. Really appreciate you spending time with us today.

Dr. Stefan Buttigieg: Thank you Saul. Thank you.

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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