Improving Maternal and Infant Health

Episode 320

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Improving Maternal and Infant Health with Tammy Noll, GE Healthcare GM, Maternal Infant Care (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. It’s a pleasure that you tune in again. I have an excellent leader in healthcare today. Her name is Tammy Noll. She’s the General Manager of Maternal Infant Care at GE Healthcare. Tammy is responsible for a global product development and product management at this critical division of GE. In a single year, 15 million premature and low birth weight babies are born and two point seven million babies die in the first four weeks of life primarily due to prematurity, asphyxia, and infection. Tammy and her team’s goal is to reduce these deaths and send babies home healthy. I know I was happy when my son came home to us just shy of two years ago and so the work that Tammy and her team does is very important. Prior to this role Tammy has been responsible for many commercial successes of the company, as well as taking on operational efficiency projects to help transform the industries she’s worked with at G.E. from plastics to anesthesia devices. But she’s also very involved in the development of people in her community. She’s involved with the Milwaukee hub as Co-Leader of the Women’s Network, focused on developing over twenty four hundred women in the greater Milwaukee area. So it’s a pleasure to have this outstanding leader on the podcast. Tammy welcome.

Tammy Noll: Thank you very much Saul.

Saul Marquez: So Tammy did I leave anything out in the intro that you want to share with the listeners?

Tammy Noll: I think you summarized it quite well thank you very much.

Saul Marquez: Great. So what is it that got you into the medical sector?

Tammy Noll: That’s a very good question. As I reflect on that many things have happened in my lifetime that really was a calling for me to make a difference in healthcare. It started when I was four years old, when my father passed away with a surprise heart attack and to go through my life growing up without a father every day I thought about how can that be. How can we not know that something so disastrous is going to happen? When I turned age 13 my mother had breast cancer. It turned out she had breast cancer. And another moment in my life. How can we not know that these diseases exist? How come we can’t do certain things to improve the outcomes? And she was at a very young age of forty three and twenty five years later, she got cancer again and unfortunately didn’t survive the second time. As I reflect on the time at least growing up age 4, age 13, you know knowing that you know I wanted to work in a business I wanted to work something related to healthcare so that I could make a difference and that we could improve the outcomes and improve the lives of individuals like my father, my mother, and all the people that are surrounded around them.

Saul Marquez: Well appreciate you sharing that. That story Tammy very very personal story and definitely I understand the fire behind your passion for what you guys do at the at the division you’re part of now, the maternal and infant care starting from the beginning is really kind of a powerful way to approach these things that that happen in your life and frankly that happened in the lives of many of us. And so what would you say is a hot topic that needs to be on every healthcare leaders agenda listening today and how is your organization approaching it?

Tammy Noll: I think a hot topic that is on everybody’s mind especially in healthcare is how can we continue to improve outcomes. You shared some of the numbers at the beginning of the call in regards to the number of babies that are born premature. The number of babies that survive, the number of babies that unfortunately don’t survive. We have amazing equipment. We have amazing doctors and we have a lot of data. Unfortunately the data that we collect from these devices from these doctors and their rounds of reviewing patients isn’t necessarily collected in a nice neat packaged way that we can use that data to give us insights. Use that data to give us decision support. And when you look across healthcare and beyond healthcare, one of the major things people are thinking about is big data. How to use that data to make those decisions? To give us insights. Artificial intelligence. How can we get smarter about what we are doing everyday with these tiny babies in my case and make sure that the outcomes that they have are more positive. So as an example, wouldn’t it be nice if we could track multiple parameters associated with the premature baby and be able to correlate the parameters, all the data, to be able to make a decision and to be able to give the clinician in this case the insight to make a more informed decision today. These doctors and nurses are left to decide and collect that data on their own. So I think a hot topic that all of us need to be thinking about in any industry and especially healthcare is how can we use data more effectively to make decisions and to provide insights so that we can improve outcomes.

Saul Marquez: It’s a great topic and and definitely something that I think our listeners care about. So with the exploding number of articles and talks at conferences about this this topic of using data we’d love to hear. Tammy what you and your team are doing maybe an example of how you’ve done this to create results by doing things differently.

Tammy Noll: And doing things differently in regards to data, I would say that we are. We have done a few things in the past. So as an example every baby is different and the most important thing for a baby in my business and a premature baby is to maintain that baby’s thermal regulation. So what does that mean exactly. That means the temperature of the baby is one of the most critical things that we need to maintain and for every one degree, one degree Celsius that you are off the temperature of that tiny baby, you increase the chance of death by 11% and you increase the chance of disability through infection by even more. So I think the thing that we have done in our machines is we’ve developed an algorithm that you take the baby’s age, you take the baby’s weight, and it helps you determine exactly what temperature that baby needs to be set at and the temperature that their body needs to be maintaining because every baby is different. And so that’s one thing that I would tell you that we use data, we use lots of data to determine what is that optimal temperature based on the weight and based on the age of the baby.

Saul Marquez: That’s fascinating. And that’s just the amazing one degree could mean 11% difference and what a great tool to have to have all these data points be summarized in a clinical decision support solution. I definitely think this is wonderful. And so can you share any any stories of how this has helped a clinician or a family?

Tammy Noll: Yeah what I would say is that if you look at the history of premature babies and the viability of the babies that we’ve been able to to save by understanding you know the thermal regulation and the temperature that these babies need you know we are able to help with the outcomes that I explained with reducing the infection reducing the deaths. So in addition to things we’ve been able to do with you know leveraging big data to make decisions like I shared with you on getting the appropriate temperature for these tiny babies, we have done some other things here at G.E. Healthcare with our equipment. In 2000, we launched the very first hybrid incubator and warmer together a product we call giraffe omnibed, for those of you not familiar with health care not familiar specifically with the space you may think about your cars and the hybrid that your car that we’ve been able to create with cars very similar with the giraffe omnibed in this case. An incubator and a warmer together. So what does that mean exactly. Most people when their baby is born they immediately go into a warmer. Now if that baby is a premature baby and as I shared with you the temperature of that baby is so important, they will be moved from a warmer to an incubator and incubator’s a closed environment where you can maintain the temperature even more precisely. So what we’ve done in 2000 is we combine the warmer and incubator together so immediately when that baby is born the baby can go into the giraffe omnibed and get the right temperature at the very start and it’s very important to make sure that we don’t have to move that fragile baby from bed to bed. We furthered that innovation in 2015 where we launched a more modernized enhanced environment for the newborn called giraffe omnibed care station and one of the things that we were able to add with this innovation is a hands free alarm. It may be simple but there’s lots of alarms that go off in the NICU, in the ICU, any part of the hospital there’s lots of alarms that are going off at all times and typically what the clinician has to do is they have to push the buttons on the display to be able to turn the alarm off. They have to look at the data and make a decision and turn the alarm off. And that happens with all sorts of devices. In this case if you’re actually if your hands are in a sterile environment and you’re working on the baby and the alarm goes off, you can continue to be sterile by doing a hands free alarm. And in this case it prevents infections as well as it continues that care for the baby. Those are a couple of things Saul that I would share with you that we have done to improve the outcomes that we’re delivering to these tiny babies.

Saul Marquez: Wow. That’s brilliant. And Tammy it’s great that you guys just keep coming up with new things to to just continue improving the care of these babies and also considering caregivers. The nurses, the physicians, neonatologist, faced with alarm fatigue. I know it’s a big problem. I have a friend that was a nurse ICU nurse for many years and she lost her hearing because of all the alarms she has to wear some hearing aids because of that. So definitely important to address both of these people. And so I think it’s great that you guys are doing that. Can you share with us one of your most proud leadership experiences?

Tammy Noll: Yes what I will share with you is several years ago I think it was 2012, we launched our first value anesthesia machine in Africa.

Saul Marquez: Cool

Tammy Noll: What was important about this launch was the fact that if in some countries, in some continents like Africa the basic functions of anesthesiology and being able to eliminate the pain doesn’t exist in all countries around the world and in fact you know an anesthesiologist the actual doctor. Those roles don’t exist. I always like to use you know I’m from the state of Wisconsin. There’s six million people that live in the state of Wisconsin and there’s 600 anesthesiologists. So it’s one anesthesiologist per 10,000 people. And if I take the country of Uganda, which was one of our targeted countries, 42 million people, 13 anesthesiologists. One in anesthesiologist per 3 million people exactly. So if you think about that problem statement, you know not only do you have lack of devices and equipment you also have lack of experienced clinicians to actually perform the clinical procedure that you need which is a really interesting challenge. You know how can we make that care practice better for these patients that are going undergoing surgery. How can we make the practice better for a general doctor that’s going to be performing the anesthesia procedure. It was a really big challenge for us. And it really took a lot of leadership and a lot of dedication to really understand the needs of this market and to develop a device that would solve the problems that a country like Uganda faces. So in 2012 we launched our first value anesthesia machine. It was in Kenya and it was meant to be for these low resource settings where there isn’t equipment today, there isn’t clinicians trained in this specific area, and very proud moment to launch that product. And since then thousands of units have been sold throughout the continent and throughout the world. And we’re able to provide the basic levels of anaesthesia where it didn’t exist before.

Saul Marquez: That’s brilliant. And it’s so it’s so interesting to think about how different the challenges are abroad versus the challenges we have here. Did any of your experience abroad and just kind of getting out of the U.S. healthcare box help you with the things that you’re you’re doing in the US?

Tammy Noll: Yes absolutely. I think the lucky thing for us is that we have engineering teams throughout the world and we have product managers that exist throughout the world. So we have people that are understanding different markets every day. But we do have a large population of those resources in the US. And if you’re living in the US and you only understand the US marketplace and the U.S. needs you’ll never design an appropriate product for Africa. So absolutely multiple members of our team myself multiple visits really understanding the customer challenges, doing observational research, and observing what’s happening, asking questions, understanding different workflows to be able to develop a product like we did for value anesthesia.

Saul Marquez: Super super interesting and what a great value add. You know I was I was at TED the TED MED conference a couple weeks ago and had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin Mutombo. He has he built the hospital over in Congo. And just hearing what he’s done over there and just the difficulties in translating the technologies paring it down to serve the needs over there is just super interesting. This is such a great example Tammy of how U.S. companies and leaders like yourself can make an impact over there. Can you tell us about an exciting project or focus you’re working on today?

Tammy Noll: Yes. So let’s come back to babies in maternal infant care what my business is all about. You might remember from when you had your baby two years ago you know the technology that is being used almost everywhere around the world is the ability to get the mom’s heart rate and the baby’s heart rate and the contractions from wired transducer. So what does that mean. These are transducers that goes on mom that are belts that go around her pregnant stomach and gather the information that we’re looking for the heart rate of both mom and babies as well as the contractions. And the mom is typically strapped to the bed. It’s a very uncomfortable experience but it’s necessary to make sure that we can get those vital signs to ensure the health of mom and baby. And that technology hasn’t changed for decades. Decades and decades but two years ago we acquired a company called Monica Healthcare and a technology that they have developed and we have since Incorporated which is called Novi which is a wireless fetal monitor that measures and displays the fetal heart rate, the maternal heart rate, and the uterine activity, the contractions via simple peel and stick patch. So essentially a sticker. In many ways that goes on moms.

Saul Marquez: Cool.

Tammy Noll: So in this case moms can have the freedom to get up, walk around, take a shower while also giving the clinicians and the caregivers the data that they need to be able to see the heart rate, to be able to see the contractions, there’s no belts no cables around mom and mom is able to follow if she’s got a specific birth plan of her own where she wants to be walking around that she wants to be bathing. You know those are things that we can now accommodate with this peel and stick patch. So it’s very exciting to be able to say that we’ve developed technology that will completely change the labor and delivery experience for moms around the world.

Saul Marquez: That’s awesome you know and I do remember my wife had the belt and we were just continuously readjusting it and trying to get the readings and it’s fantastic. But you guys have developed a technology to help with the flexibility and sort of just the birth plan of every mom. Have you guys had any stories about how it’s helped moms?

Tammy Noll: Definitely it’s been all over the news which is very exciting. Lots of hospitals, lots of moms, lots of nurses, are very happy with the product and the change in labor and delivery. It frees up nurses time. If you think about it a lot of the nurses spend their time readjusting the belts, chasing the heart beat is what we say because they’re constantly moving the transducer is where in this case the peeling stick patch is placed once you put it on and it stays on and it gives you the reading that you’re looking for. So we’ve gotten a lot of good feedback and we’ve continuing to sell and grow and grow this business every day.

Saul Marquez: Wonderful. That’s such a great value add and it’s the things that you don’t think about that often escape us these innovations that Tammy’s team is thinking about to make the labor and delivery process that much more comfortable and also improving the workflow for nursing is huge. Thanks so much for sharing that Tammy.

Tammy Noll: Thank you.

Saul Marquez: So let’s pretend, we’re getting close to the end here, Tammy it’s time’s flying by. Let’s pretend we’re building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in health care. The ABC’s of Tammy Noll. I’ve got five questions for you. These are gonna be lightning round questions and then we’ll follow that with a book you recommend to the listeners. You ready?

Tammy Noll: Yes.

Saul Marquez: Okay. What’s the best way to improve healthcare outcomes?

Tammy Noll: Definitely you have to understand the patient experience, the clinician experience, and really understand the challenges that are being faced. It could be via observational research you can be asking questions but that’s the first thing that I would say to improve healthcare outcomes you really need to understand the problem to begin with.

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

Tammy Noll: Well quite the opposite of what I just said. Developing products without understanding the problem and that happens because we have a lot of smart engineers at GE as well as throughout the world and a lot of engineers have great ideas and we develop these ideas without really understanding will solve a clinical problem or a problem that we’re looking for. So don’t forget to go talk to a customer. Listen to a customer. Observe a customer. And in this case for us it would be going to the NICU, go into labor and delivery.

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

Tammy Noll: Constantly visiting customers coming back to the first two questions is what keeps us relevant. We need to get out see these customers see the changes see the trends that are happening now just two weeks ago I spent time in Nigeria in Ghana and Dubai and a month before that I was in Indonesia and we have to get out. We have to see what’s changing in the practices at these NICU’s, in these labor and deliveries and I would also say to stay relevant we have to be on top of big data. As I mentioned at the beginning there is a lot of changes in regards to going digital, having big data, and we need to continue to figure out as a business how we can leverage that and all the new tools that are becoming available.

Saul Marquez: What is one area of focus that drives everything in your business?

Tammy Noll: Our mission which is to send moms and babies home healthy. If you ever come to our office all in all you listeners out there there’s babies and moms everywhere on all of our walls. Everybody under stands the mission. Everybody understands the problem that we’re solving and that keeps us focused every single day. And it includes our own stories. You know I’m a mom, you’re a dad as you mentioned, you know we have people on our team that specifically come work in the maternal infant care business because they had a premature baby, because they lost a baby, because they have a child that is disabled as a result of prematurity. The mission is so important to us and that’s what keeps us focused.

Saul Marquez: It’s wonderful. What would you say your number one success habit is Tammy?

Tammy Noll: Starting with the customer and making sure that everybody starts with the customer. It includes engineers quality people regulatory. It’s important for us to be successful we need to understand the customer. We often bring in pregnant moms, moms that just add children nurses doctors to our office to make sure that they understand the impact that they’re making and the problems that we still have.

Saul Marquez: That’s wonderful and sounds like you’re definitely driving a strong vision and mission based culture there. So big kudos to you Tammy and for your leadership. What book would you recommend to the listeners?

Tammy Noll: I would recommend the book Blind Spots. What are your blind spots. You know as an organization and as a leader as a parent we all have blind spots and sometimes you know we people point them out to us and we don’t believe that they exist. So you know as an example when one blind spot could be that they talk about in the book is that what matters the most is profit. And yes every day I wake up thinking about how much more money we can make. And I think every person in their job every doctor every nurse. But at the end of the day what’s most important is the purpose and why we are doing what we’re doing for all those babies that are born premature every day. For those babies that unfortunately don’t survive. That is our number one priority. And how can we ensure that we always keep that front and center. So I think it’s important that we understand as leaders you know our blind spots are, how to be aware of them, and how to make sure that we continue to have focus.

Saul Marquez: Love that recommendation, Tammy. And folks for for a full transcript of our interview and links to Tammy’s work, the division that she leads and also the book she recommended just go to outcomesrocket.health and in the search bar, just type in Tammy Noll. That’s Noll, you’ll see that episode pop up you’ll be able to access all that there and Tammy before we conclude I love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place for listeners could follow your work or get in touch.

Tammy Noll: Okay thank you very much Saul. It’s been a good conversation. Closing comments as you know healthcare is a very fascinating industry. We have a huge opportunity to impact the lives of people in our community, our loved ones, and I encourage everybody to find something that they’re passionate about. Healthcare for me is something I’m very passionate about as I shared with you the story of my father my mother. As a mom, you know we can truly make a difference in our business make a difference for these these little ones so I encourage you to continue to find something you’re passionate about. For more information on GE Healthcare, the MIC business please visit our website and for more information on me, please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you.

Saul Marquez: Outstanding Tammy. Thanks again for spending time with us. We really learn a lot and appreciate that you made time.

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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