We’re back at Olive HQ after an invigorating week at Becker’s 4th Annual Health IT & Revenue Cycle Conference. We spent time with over 300 Rev Cycle and IT executives in Chicago. Through our conversations, one thing is clear – top hospital systems and executives are actively seeking to determine artificial intelligence and RPA’s (robotic process automation) place in their organizations.
Hospitals are forecasted to spend over $50 billion dollars on AI related technologies by 2020, according to Healthcare IT News. Yet, many are only beginning their evaluation of AI. So what are these leaders saying about AI and automation in healthcare? Here are five key insights we identified from our conversations with them:
1. 58% of revenue cycle and IT executives are simply trying to understand the hospital applications of AI and whether it makes sense for their organization
2. Healthcare organizations are looking for AI to capture missing revenue, increase accuracy of patient information captured and help with new tasks & processes
3. AI still doesn’t feel “easy” or “accessible” to healthcare executives. There are lingering questions on reliability, ROI, and organizational fit
4. Leaders in Healthcare believe the best applications of AI across the Revenue Cycle are eligibility checks, prior authorizations and claims processing
5. AI and Automation is poised to provide the quickest ROI when matched with repetitive, high volume tasks across the Revenue Cycle
Wondering how you can apply AI and RPA successfully in your organization? As a healthcare-exclusive AI and RPA company, Olive can help you identify the right approach to applying AI in your hospital. Start here with us today.
It’s Your Job To Figure That Out
When you’re building a product for someone, the first thing you need to know is that your customer probably doesn’t care.
They will care. Once you’ve finished the product, put it in their hands, and made their life better, then they will care.
For about as long as it takes them to remember that lunch is in an hour. Then they’re back to not caring.
Such is the life of a product creator. It’s your job to create something new for customers, but it’s not their job to care. This can seem disrespectful. You slaved away, building this product for them. You’ve sacrificed weeks, months, years of your life to make this — and they can’t be bothered to give you a little feedback?
You might feel entitled to at least some attention. You are, after all, building a product for them. Surely they can take some time out of their day to tell you what you should make.
But they won’t, for a couple of reasons:
- They don’t care enough to. They have a million other things going on in their life. Things more important than telling a programmer how to do their job.
- They’re too busy to. Chances are, they’re busy building something else for someone else. They don’t have time to sit down and go over the product with you.
- They don’t know how. They don’t have the skills to create the products they use, and they don’t have the bandwidth to sit around and come up with ways the product could be different. Studies have shown that the only feedback they can give you is feedback about what they’ve already used, not what’s possible. (Considering what’s possible is your job).
They don’t because it isn’t worth their time. People value their own time. “The majority (66%) of adults feel that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience.”
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time, because it is. The reason customers won’t give you attention isn’t that your work doesn’t matter; it’s because they have delegated the work to you and trust you to get it done. The highest authority in any business isn’t the CEO or the board, but the customers. It’s their money that pays the bills.
It’s your job to solve their problem, and to solve it with as little support as possible.
To some people, that sounds harsh. ‘You expect me to solve your problem, without your help?’ It can even seem like a tautology; how do you solve a problem you know nothing about?
In reality, it’s honorable work to have. And deep down inside, you know this. You’re in this position because you decided to make building products for other people your job. You made it your job (hopefully) not because you thought you’d get rich, or because it was easy, but because you find meaning in the work. Appealing to customers to tell you what to do not only produces a worse product; it takes the challenge and the honor out of doing it.
That said, you want to stay receptive to any feedback they have without forcing them to give it. People may not be able to imagine what will make them happy, but they can tell you how they feel about what’s in front of them right now.
Not getting in the customer’s way is almost as important as making the product in the first place. One study showed that 74% of customers are likely to switch brands if they find the buying experience difficult, no matter how awesome the product. This is a painful loss because it costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one.
If your customers could help you that much, you’d be out of a job.
As it so happens, they can’t. By virtue of their position, they lack the objectivity they need to understand their problems. By virtue of their jobs, they lack the skills necessary to engineer a solution to their problems. And by virtue of their daily responsibilities, they lack the vision to consider other possibilities.
“I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
Your customers may not be able to actively help you, but they are still a valuable source of information. Their behavior is feedback in and of itself.
- If they receive what you build with no comment, it communicates something. It could mean that your solution is so compelling that they don’t need to worry about it anymore. Or it could mean they’re not using your solution because their previous one is easier for them.
- If they react positively, that doesn’t mean it’s time to pump the breaks. It means whatever you’re doing, you’re doing right. You should be doing more of it.
- If they receive your product with reluctance (or outright complaints), it means you’ve taken a wrong turn. Don’t wait until they complain about the product or cancel their service. Make sure to identify what’s causing the friction and solve it before it becomes a more significant problem.
“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”
It’s an honor to create products for people. Nothing matches the satisfaction you get when you see something you made changing the lives of countless other people. People are leaving it up to you to create something for them. And when they start using it, you know it isn’t because someone forced it on them, but because it makes their life better.
At Olive, we make Artificial Intelligence for doctor’s offices and hospitals that handle administrative tasks, so healthcare employees can do what they do best — take care of their patients. Check out our website to learn more.
Originally published on Oak HC/FT
Today, we led the Series D financing in Olive (formerly known as CrossChx), the leading healthcare provider of robotic process automation (“RPA”) tools. Through its eponymous platform, the company streamlines repetitive, high-volume tasks by leveraging the systems and tools that its customers already have in place without complex integrations. Leveraging AI, Olive helps hospitals and health systems reduce costs, eliminate clerical error, boost efficiency, and improve satisfaction.
Our investment in Olive is the result of our thematic pursuit for solutions that help drive efficiency and lower costs using automation technology. While Olive is not unique in providing RPA solutions, we have yet to come across another company with as much proven expertise in solving challenges unique to healthcare. Sean Lane, the CEO and founder of Olive, and his team have developed a platform that delivers an immense amount of value without needing to fundamentally change the way its customers do business.
We spoke with many of Olive’s customers all of whom confirmed how integral the technology has become to their day-to-day operations. Many users referred to Olive as another member of their team, describing the work “she” did, stating they couldn’t imagine their workflow without “her.” This is the sort of thing that really underscores how Olive goes far beyond a typical software solution.
The use cases for Olive within the healthcare ecosystem are seemingly endless and we see them as only continuing to grow as the company expands with next-generation technology like Pupil, the company’s process mining solution. We look forward to partnering with the company to support growth strategies and scale the business. Alongside Ascension Ventures, Drive Capital, SVB Capital, and the other existing investors participating in this round, we at Oak HC/FT could not be more excited to partner with Sean and his team on their journey.
Funding led by Oak HC/FT and Ascension Ventures to enable company to accelerate product development and scale its technology to healthcare organizations nationwide
CrossChx rebrands itself as Olive to reflect commitment to building meaningful AI-enabled robotic process automation solutions for healthcare
COLUMBUS OH, July 30, 2018—Olive, the premier healthcare-focused robotic process automation and artificial intelligence company, announced today that it has raised a $32.8 million Series D round from Oak HC/FT and Ascension Ventures with participation from existing investors. The round will help the company scale its eponymous AI solution, Olive, throughout healthcare organizations nationwide and invest in new capabilities such as Pupil, its process mining tool, that will be launched at alpha sites this summer.
“Hospital operations have grown unsustainably complex as providers must adopt new technologies, workflows, and regulations with increasing frequency in order to provide best-practice care,” added John Kuelper, Investment Director at Ascension Ventures. “Olive’s cutting-edge process mining and automation technologies are enabling our firm’s health system partners to continually optimize clinical and administrative operations so caregivers can spend more of their time on patient care.”
“Olive arrives at a time when healthcare organizations are burdened with improving efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing the patient experience,” said Sean Lane, Founder and CEO of Olive. “Olive handles repetitive, high-volume tasks, which allows employees to get back to patient care and presents healthcare organizations with value that could not otherwise be realized.”
“As the first healthcare automation solution on the market using AI to streamline repetitive tasks and workflows by working with existing systems, Olive is uniquely positioned to counteract the ever-increasing cost of healthcare and humanize the cumbersome process,” said Billy Deitch, Principal at Oak HC/FT. “We are excited to partner with Olive to deploy its innovative technology at scale.”
Billy Deitch, Principal at Oak HC/FT and John Kuelper, Investment Director at Ascension Ventures, will join the company’s board of directors.
Earlier this year, Olive divested its legacy Connect platform and related products including Connect biometrics, Queue registration kiosk, and the CrossChx Connect mobile app to DHS Group.
Olive is a healthcare-specific artificial intelligence and process automation company that empowers healthcare organizations to improve efficiency and patient care while reducing costly administrative errors. Its eponymous AI solution, Olive, acts as the intelligent router between systems and data by automating repetitive, high-volume tasks and workflows, providing true interoperability. Olive has helped healthcare organizations reduce data and billing errors, eliminate denials for no coverage, improve cash collections by reducing days in A/R, and more. To learn more and receive updates, visit www.oliveai.com.
ABOUT OAK HC/FT
Founded in 2014, Oak HC/FT (http://oakhcft.com) is the premier venture growth-equity fund investing in Healthcare Information & Services (“HC”) and Financial Services Technology (“FT”). With $1.1 billion in assets under management, we are focused on driving transformation in these industries by providing entrepreneurs and companies with strategic counsel, board-level participation, business plan execution and access to our extensive network of industry leaders. Oak HC/FT is headquartered in Greenwich, CT with offices in Boston and San Francisco. Follow Oak HC/FT on Twitter, LinkedIn and Medium.
ABOUT ASCENSION VENTURES
Ascension Ventures is a strategic healthcare investment firm with four funds and more than $800 million in capital under management. The firm was launched in 2001 by Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit health system, and today invests on behalf of thirteen of the nation’s leading community health systems. These health system limited partners collectively operate 474 hospitals, have 578,000 employees and generate $88 billion in annual revenue. AV collaborates with these partners to identify, invest in, and support strategically aligned private companies that are transforming the healthcare industry and enhancing the experience for patients, their families, and caregivers.
Originally published in Health:Further
With the rise of robotics and AI across virtually every industry, the fear of “will a robot take my job?” is more pressing than ever. In the healthcare world, at least, that future couldn’t come soon enough.
The U.S. healthcare system is advanced in so many ways, yet one of the most glaring problems that still plagues it is a lack of interoperability, or as we like to say, the lack of the “Internet of Healthcare (IoH).” In the literal sense, the Internet of Healthcare means connecting networks—connecting health systems, connecting data, connecting patient information and more. It means turning healthcare from a series of intranets connected by fax machines, to a true internet connected by AI as the “router.”
That’s a far cry from the healthcare experience we face now. Today, just getting into a hospital requires mountains of paperwork, faxes, and family medical histories that often take longer to fill out than the hospital visit itself. In one of the most vulnerable and human professions that exists, patients are left feeling like just a number.
The reason this exists is because our existing healthcare technologies were not built to share data. They were built as fortresses to protect the data of patients at each instance, and to make sure that data was available only within the walls of that system.
As a result, humans had to take on the job of the router, the data processor, the transmitter. This phenomenon has shifted the hours spent by humans from being in front of patients to being in front of computer screens, logged in to many user interfaces, shepherding patient data into the right fields. Licensed caregivers’ quality of life have been pummeled by this new role, and the consequence comes in the form of burnt-out employees, skyrocketing administrative costs, less human-to-human experiences, and most importantly, subsequent decreased quality of care.
It’s easy to throw stones at the software that exists and excoriate them for their lack of data sharing capabilities. However, they were just a product of the requirements they had to meet to become certified and meet a rather daunting set of standards imposed by the federal government. It’s not clear that data sharing should have been introduced into the requirements framework earlier or more aggressively, and it’s not clear if diagnosing that now does us any good. The reality that exists with healthcare technology is that we now have to figure out how to scale that technology to the next level.
We think AI is the solution to scaling that technology, to taking the robot out of the human and propelling human potential further than we’ve ever seen it.
So, what does the world look like when we “take the robot out of the human?” I won’t comment on what it will look like in other industries, but here’s how I see it playing out in the healthcare industry.
1. Insured patients no longer incur unexpected out-of-pocket costs because of registration issues or human error. Instead of filling out insurance information at intake, AI helps hospitals understand patients’ coverage before they even set foot through the door. The same people who spend their days inputting information into EMRs can focus on actually talking to, and understanding, the patients who are there to see them.
2. Patients’ identities are reconciled across multiple departments, even multiple hospitals. By knowing exactly who is coming through the door, and why, AI helps hospitals cut down on doctor-shopping and drastically reduce overdoses on prescription medications.
3. Ride-sharing vehicles are dispatched to the patients who need them the most. Instead of relying on patients to find their own way to the hospital, AI detects which patients have the greatest no-show risk, then dispatches a vehicle to get them the care they need, when they need it.
4. Patients are seamlessly matched to cutting-edge technologies and clinical trials. Finding clinical trial participants can be like finding a needle in a haystack, and it can be the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of people every year. AI gives us the framework not just to enrich those lives, but to save them altogether.
5. Clinicians no longer spend six hours a day entering data into an EMR. Instead, AI transcribes notes from each patient exam and submit them for approval. Burnout decreases, energy improves, and clinicians get to spend their time doing what they care about most.
What’s common about all of those experiences? Humans aren’t out of the picture. In fact, they’re more a part of the picture than they are today. With AI as the router, humans finally have the time, the energy, and the bandwidth to focus on what matters most: the patient.
The current zeitgeist around AI is trepidation about whether or not it will take human jobs, but I believe we will be able to achieve so much more as a humankind with the assistance of AI. It’s true, AI will certainly take parts of our jobs, reconfigure our jobs, but that’s exactly what we need in healthcare today.
We can use AI to take over the Button Olympics that humans are enduring in hospitals across the country. AI can transmit the data where it needs to go, and use global awareness to ensure the right data goes to the right place. AI can turn the human-powered Internet of Healthcare into a technology-powered internet, without having to overhaul the immense infrastructure that has already been put into place. With AI doing all of these things, humans can focus more on creativity and empathy, on the skills that no machine can recreate.
AI largely is not trying to replace humans, just trying to replace some of what humans do. Imagine what healthcare would be like if we could take the robot out of the human. Think about how much better off, and happier, and more fulfilled, the workforce would be. That’s the world I am dedicated to building.
Throughout the life cycle of a product there will be ups and downs. Times when the hype is high, and times when the path forward is uncertain. These waves put pressure on the Product Manager to constantly lead, no matter the situation. What if you’re not sure that the company is moving in the right direction? Or you’re not confident in the performance of an upcoming release?
If you feel this, you’re likely not alone, but as the leader of the product, you must project optimism in order to keep your team with you.
Whether you like it or not, people are looking at you. They pick up on your expressions, your reactions, and your attitude. When you are bearish on a decision, that attitude has a way of permeating through the product team and other stakeholders. People will divest in the effort and become skeptical about the path. Projecting optimism will do just the opposite. Showing that you’re confident in a positive outcome will give the rest of your team something positive to look forward to. It will keep those around you calm in the face of uncertainty, and will give them a reason to follow you. It will even give your team confidence that a solution can be found in difficult situations.
Successful PdMs will need to lead teams and products through thick and thin. Being optimistic about your future and confident in your decisions will keep you and your team feeling positive and focused on moving forward. Next time you notice confidence weaning on your team, try projecting optimism about the situation, because if you don’t—who will?
As more software companies turn their focus on healthcare, Product Managers who are new to the industry will notice the intricacies that make building, launching, and maintaining a product in healthcare different. Healthcare is one of the most unique industries in terms of regulation, data sensitivity, and social impact, which pushes product teams to take novel approaches to typical “playbooks” that exist. While healthcare’s strict privacy rules, high costs, and siloed software systems can make it seem like an unattractive industry to work in, that is just why more of us need to help. The outcomes of improving anything from health data analysis to back office efficiencies all impact care in some way, and can ultimately improve the health of our society. That is the ultimate pay off. I hope to provide a little bit of insight into some challenges you’ll face as a PdM in healthcare, preparing you to build healthcare products for the first time.
Note: My experience is primarily in building products for hospitals in the context of registration, patient flow, and back office operations.
Secure environments and sensitive data
Hospitals take security very seriously. Everything from how the building is organized, to where their patient data is stored, to privacy agreements with patients create a complex security apparatus that makes it difficult to obtain the typical data sets about your users that you’re accustomed to. For example, you may have trouble finding a usage analytics tool/framework that works for you and your customers. In many cases, simply using Google Analytics will not be viable out-of-the-box, especially without a BAA in place with Google. Although it may be unintentional, there is a potential that some of the monitoring may pick up PHI in certain events, and even if that is cleared on your end, hospital security teams may have issues with that data going to Google. In more secure settings, hospitals may even want you to operate in an on-prem/off-net setting, eliminating your ability to use conventional tools to collect usage data in the cloud. This challenge is both a technical and communication hurdle.
Be proactive about all things security and data. Setting up environments and analysis tools in non-compliant ways will only cause more pain transitioning later and when having conversations with potential customers. When it comes to collecting usage data, consider using a hosted solution (piwik), or a home-grown solution if needed, and do it early. If you want to get metrics that are based on the PHI (Protected Health Information) that you’re collecting, this will require more secure analysis infrastructure (for instance we have a separate HIPAA compliant, AWS cloud with Zeppelin to do analysis), so plan ahead. I also cannot understate the value of in-depth security documentation describing your architecture/data collection practices. This will save you hours of phone calls with security teams and make you seem more legitimate to potential customers.
Complex and siloed health data
If you’re new to healthcare and plan to build something that leverages patient data, be prepared to spend a significant amount of time learning about the different data protocols (HL7, FHIR, etc) and terminology sets (SNOMED, LOINC, CPT, DRG, ICD, etc). These standards are in place to classify and label information, however many of these are not used in standard ways, creating issues for non-experts when trying to leverage the data. Connecting to sources of this raw data is often difficult, and each hospital will use slightly different system configurations and prefer a different connection method. For instance, some hospitals that want to leverage HL7 will have to pay upwards of $10,000 to set up an interface for your product that will allow HL7 to flow bidirectional. Also note that these are some of the challenges just to read this information. When writing back to a patient’s record, you’ll need to be even more careful managing patient data.
Besides establishing analysis environments early, its important to define your end goal for your data analysis upfront. This will help you focus on the specific data types that you really need to understand and will give you the capacity to dive deep. For instance, if you want to do analysis on different diagnoses that patients have and your data is coming via HL7, you’ll need to first learn to parse the HL7 to the correct segment, then to decipher the content in that segment (likely an ICD code for consistency). Knowing where you want to end up will guide you to work through learning these different conventions one at a time, and to not overwhelm your team with the dozens of other terminology sets at once.
Live Feedback Nurses,
doctors, and anyone working in a hospital setting for that matter, are extremely busy (not to mention, there aren’t enough of them). They are also working directly with patients or with patient data throughout the day, so it can be challenging to find a time and place to meet with a user/potential user for feedback. Product teams will have to do a little extra work to get feedback from these specialized users/customers.
As with any product, there is no substitute for getting out in the field, but with healthcare specifically, this may be the only time you get with your target users/customers. Spend as much time as you can at hospitals with customers or prospective customers, asking questions, observing, and meeting with as many departments as you can. Go on sales meetings, installations, or even exploratory conversations if you can get them. Although we all have our own experience in healthcare settings, being there for research, not as a patient, will give you a different perspective. I personally found this to be a little awkward at first, but the insights and empathy for your users that you’ll gain is invaluable. Always be cognizant of the fact that “once you’ve seen one hospital, you’ve seen one hospital;” they all operate a little differently, and you’ll gain new insights from each conversation.
Validating New Product Ideas
It’s hard to validate B2HC (Business to Healthcare) ideas with traditional B2C techniques. Hospitals are hesitant to try “just any” software they find on the internet, and it’s tough to reach the right audience with a simple landing/sign-up page to gauge interest. To make any progress, you’re going to have to get more hands-on.
First, if you have any existing customers, leverage any time with them to validate your new ideas. For everything from sales decks to demos, you existing customers will be a great starting place for validation. When presenting a new concept in a healthcare setting, whether it’s a mockup or a prototype, I recommend making it feel as real as possible. No need to lie about progress or waste too much time on working software, but presenting something that seems incomplete may limit your ability to gain traction in your conversation with a risk-averse healthcare customer. We’ve used many techniques from Ash Maurya’s “Running Lean” over the years, particularly the problem and solution interviews.
Always have the patient in mind. A fair amount of my time has been building products or features that a patient never interacts with. Our customers typically evaluate the ROI of these products by how they reduce costs in some way. In the end this eventually translates to better patient experience and outcomes. Remember that at some point, everyone is a patient. Focus on the end goal of health.
As a Product Manager, you own the decisions made about your product. This doesn’t mean that you are always actually making choices, but that you are responsible for facilitating the making of decisions and are held responsible for their outcomes. While the outcome of a decision is the typical measure of success, I believe that PdMs should also focus on how quickly they can take advantage of an opportunity. In the fast-paced landscape of technology companies, especially startups, taking weeks or even days to make a decision could be long enough to render even a “perfect” decision (probably doesn’t exist) useless. All too often, to a fault, analysis is valued over execution. In this blog, we’ll explore how to leverage action to make better Product decisions.
To illustrate how overanalysis can cause a missed opportunity, consider the following scenario. You want to improve conversion on your website as a new competitor is beginning to take some of your potential users. You think you can make-up ground by improving the usability of the sign-up flow, and want to take some time to analyze the current sign-up data, do some user groups, run a few A/B tests, and optimize your site from there. While this sounds like a fine plan, PdMs need to be cognizant of the time they’re spending on optimization and planning in comparison to the magnitude of the decision. Doing user groups and inconsequential A/B tests over a matter of months may lead to a solution capable of doubling conversion rate, but at that point your competitor may have already swayed a bulk of your potential users. Also, how valuable are those acquired users in the end anyways? If you were able to make a slightly less informed decision that resulted in a slightly worse conversion rate improvement, but in half of the time, the end result would likely be a gain in users over your competitor. PdMs need to constantly evaluate the importance and impact of decisions with the amount of time and energy required to make it.
“This reveals something counterintuitive about decision making: your goal shouldn’t be to always make the right decision, it should be to invest the right amount of time in a making a decision relative to its importance.” – Brandon Chu, Making Good Decisions as a Product Manager
To make more effective product decisions, I recommend trying out the following techniques:
Keep the end goal in mind
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the details of a problem, forgetting what the actual end goal is. It’s helpful to take a moment to slow down and identify what the end goal is, which is usually larger/broader than the task at hand, and make sure you’re not getting hung up on details that will only have a minor impact. To do this, try increasing the visibility of your end goal, and tracing all changes/initiatives/tests back to that goal, so that your team always has their eye on how their work relates to the bigger picture. A good Product team will call things out if they feel out of line.
Plan to learn along the way
No decision will ever be perfect. Expecting to fail and learn (in a controlled way) along the way will put you in the mindset of execution, rather than endless analysis. This comes down to managing the expectations of your manager, team, and yourself. Knowing upfront that you’re going to take some chances makes acting on those chances earlier easier. Instead of building out a plan, which includes knowing the answers or delaying a decision, break the decision up into smaller, prioritized decisions and start at the top. Working through this list will allow you to make better smaller decisions that are less risky and daunting, allowing you to learn faster. Having this expectation at the start will take the pressure out of the situation.
Doing something (within reason) is better than doing nothing
Action typically outweighs idleness when faced with a product decision. This feeds the learning mindset, pushing you to take steps towards your goal, even if they are not 100% the right steps. The key to managing this risk is to keep the steps small, and to tackle lower-risk problems with less information while spending more time on higher-risk decisions. Those small steps will compound into leaps of positive progress, and you will have made them quickly. One of our company core values at CrossChx is “excuses are for losers”, so every time I’m faced with a decision where there doesn’t seem to be a clear path forward, I remind myself that there is always something that can be done. There is typically no excuse to do nothing—there is always something that can be learned.
Being at the center of products, PdMs own the result of all decisions made. To effectively make decisions, Product teams typically employ a number of frameworks, but can get bogged down in the perfect solution. To take full advantage of opportunities, PdMs should consider the timeliness of their decision heavily against the potential impact of their decision. Making the right decision too late isn’t valuable to you or your customer.
Afterword: While searching to see how other PdMs feel about this topic, I stumbled across Brandon Chu’s blog Making Good Decisions as a Product Manager (quoted above). I cannot agree more with his post and recommend reading his post if you want a deeper dive on the mechanics of this sort of decision making.
To me, the role of Product Management is to identify opportunities presented by users, customers, or the market, and then to capitalize on that opportunity by leveraging the collective capabilities of the company (by building software, designing a shoe, offering a service, etc). Notice that Product is merely working with other divisions to accomplish the ultimate goal of seizing opportunity. While Product Managers (PdMs) tend to be intelligent, well-rounded people, they are not experts in all areas required to make a product successful, nor should they be.
Steve Jobs famously said “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” It’s typically not Product’s job to hire the entire team, but PdMs should follow the same sentiment when working across the company. The PdM won’t necessarily have direct “authority” (in terms of reporting structure) over engineers, marketers, or designers but will need to leverage all of their skill sets and input in order to make their product initiative a success. Enter the need to be able to lead without authority.
Before diving into how to effectively lead without authority, it’s worth highlighting a few day to day examples of why Product must lead without authority. At the highest level, Product may need to rally people from several teams behind an idea or opportunity. Perhaps there is an opportunity for much needed revenue or an idea for a new feature that a PdM feels strongly about, they will need to gain buy-in from people across the company, above and below them, to drive their initiative to success. Once an initiative is off and running, PdMs play a key role in motivating all parts of the team to execute and maintain a consistent cadence. While this is also a shared responsibility by those involved, the PdM should keep the team focused and engaged to move the project forward. Finally on a more micro level, PdMs help lead and facilitate smaller decisions on a daily basis. For anything from a design change to an adjustment in priorities, the PdM will need to help ensure proper due diligence is done and provide insight/direction from their point of view.
Given this context, I believe these are three of the top techniques for leading without authority:
Evangelize your vision and desired outcome
In order to lead a team to achieve your product goals, you must provide your view of the future first. I like to think of this in the form of a vision, showing how you see this particular plan playing out, and in the form of a desired outcome, providing a more tangible end goal. The former is not a prescription of how the product/initiative must look in the end, but a story about the potential of the initiative, which should energize the team to participate. The latter is more solid; it gives everyone a tangible metric or goal to work toward and gives context to why the project is important. This will become more important in point two.
As you convey your vision, try to tell a story that will resonate with your audience and that goes past the conclusion of current project. You want your team to be energized by the impact that this project will have and where it will take the company in the future.
When providing a desired outcome, I find it best to accompany it with solid reasoning and data about why it is the right thing to “chase” right now. Many times, this ties back to a company goal, tactic/strategy, or vision, and it’s important for everyone you’re working with to understand that.
Leave it to the experts
As we’ve already noted, it’s most effective to allow experts in each area to own decisions in their particular domain. That is why point one is so important. It allows the PdM to think deeply about the vision and desired outcome for a given initiative, and then leverage the collective and individual expertise of each team member to make decisions in their space. A PdM that tries to dictate solutions or approaches in others’ areas of expertise will likely make suboptimal decisions and sour relationships along the way.
To do this effectively, present your end goal to each stakeholder, and then ask a lot of questions about how they think they’ll help achieve the goal from their perspective. Try to understand what they see as critical, then help them formulate a plan to achieve that. The most important point here is to put your faith in their decision, while making sure everyone knows how all of the pieces fit together.
Celebrate the hard work
After all of the releases, campaigns, tests, cold calls, and mockups the product has achieved its desired outcome or at least you’ve learned a ton along the way. Along that journey it’s important to celebrate the team’s accomplishments but even more important to put the emphasis on those that you’ve worked with. After all, they likely did majority of the leg work and they typically aren’t the first to be recognized when others think of the product or initiative. Showing this genuine praise will help you gain trust from those on your team, and will attract others in the organization to want to work with you on future projects.
Praise can come in a lot of ways. It could be giving someone credit in a meeting with other leaders, a post in your #general Slack channel, or an explicit callout at an all company meeting. As long as it’s authentic, praising your team’s work will return dividends when you’re in the trenches together. Honorable mention for this point: get to know your colleagues on a personal level and don’t be an jerk.
While leading without authority is a less technical Product Management skill, I contend that it is the most important skill for a PdM to have. So much of the job depends on coordination across the company (which cannot be made up for with intellect or time), that it’s hard to make progress without it. Experiment around with these techniques to see what works with your leadership style; you’ll know you’re on the right track when you no longer feel like you’re fighting for control.
As technologies have rapidly improved and advanced in their cognitive abilities, humans have willingly deduced themselves to manual routers of information. But wait… weren’t computers supposed to do that? I want us all to change the way we think about AI in order to build communities, not walls. AI should be used to scale human capacity rather than replace human necessity, and work side-by-side with healthcare employees of all levels and specializations.
I spoke at the “Machine Learning and AI for Healthcare” event at HIMSS a few weeks ago and because there wasn’t any video footage I wanted to at least share my thoughts on AI in this blog post.
I truly believe that it will require all of us to solve the problems that exist within healthcare by changing the way we think about AI in order to build communities instead of walls. That’s why I titled this “Integrate with Nothing, Outegrate with Everything.” I know what some of you are thinking. Outegrate isn’t even a real word. Let me tell you from personal experience, you can’t be a successful startup without having the ability to dress funny, use words like “disrupt,” “lean,” and “unicorn,” and lastly you can’t be a successful startup without having the ability to make up words once in a while.
Some of you may remember CrossChx as the startup that brought a DeLorean to HIMSS two years ago, with our “lobby of the future” concept. We were focused on solving the problems around identity and data resolution. Based on the success that came from creating a unique global patient ID, our customers requested our help to further reduce costs that are incurred by the stress points associated with manual processes that result in claim rejections, denials, no shows, and more. We knew we had an even bigger opportunity to solve massive problems in healthcare with AI. What we believe is that for AI to be truly useful, it must be indistinguishable from a human and that AI should do what machines do best — leaving the tasks that require creativity, empathy, and passion to people.
Now that you know a little bit about our story I want to set the tone for why I believe what I believe by sharing my personal story.
I was born in India to Aviraj and Sureka, and I have an older brother named David. If you’re Indian, or know someone who is, you know that there are a plethora of people in Indian families. Some that you know, and some that you will never meet, but that’s just the way it is. Until I was six years old, there were twelve of us living in four bedrooms, sharing one kitchen and one bathroom all on the bottom floor of an apartment building. When we immigrated to the United States in 1991, I met nearly a hundred more family members and we all lived within a ten mile radius of each other in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The biggest lesson I learned throughout my childhood was that community matters. There was always a reason to celebrate…Thanksgiving and Christmas? Let’s get a hundred people together and pack them into the smallest place possible. You got a new pair of shoes? Great! Let’s celebrate that by going out to eat!
Historically, humans were centered around family and communities.
Generation after generation lived together under one roof, and when families did live separately, they never moved very far. We have since become a more individualistic culture. We walk around all day with our heads buried in our phones. We rely on ourselves. We live far away from where we were raised. Our connections with other people sometimes take place most often in the workplace.
It seems as though some of the technologies within healthcare have succumbed to the same mindset.
Now there are plenty of inventions that have helped us connect what was once disconnected. Think about electricity, the automobile, railways, mobile telephones, Facebook, and the list goes on. On the flip side we also know that there are plenty of technologies that do not help us become more connected. Healthcare, for example, has made significant investments into EHR’s, email, phone, chat, analytics, patient portals, and revenue cycle tools. Not to mention the time spent on hiring and training staff on these applications at disparate parts of an organization.
Instead of these technologies existing within a cohesive community that benefits both the patient and provider, they have built walls.
These are pervasive problems that I’m sure each of us have to deal with on a daily basis, but imagine what that must feel like for healthcare workers around the world. You could walk around most healthcare trade shows and slap vendor logos on each one of these walls. Most technologies require expensive integrations and the client is stuck paying the bill and allocating their IT staff to complete each of these projects.
“The sheer volume of healthcare data and the industry’s inability to tap its potential adds up to more than $300 billion annually in wasted value. Add to that compliance with federal privacy laws, and it’s no wonder patient care is often a mess. Multiple health data sources keep information such as clinical, financial and operational data siloed and separated, a problem that’s compounded by each data system’s unique validation rules, formats and key identifiers. With different databases and software systems holding different subsets of data, it’s difficult to get a complete picture of a patient — so accurate analysis of all that information is tough to do.” — The McKinsey Global Institute.
Because of the lack of interoperability with these technologies, human employees such as clerical staff, nurses, and even doctors, have become the routers of information.
Transferring data from one system to another. Typing and clicking their way through routinizable tasks, and spending less time focused on direct-patient care. Recent studies have shown disturbing trends in physicians spending nearly 50% of their time working within the EHR and other technologies that they use. Aside from being stressful and tedious, clerical processes are naturally prone to human errors– errors which can ultimately cost organizations tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
So what can AI do to help scale human capacity rather than replace human necessity?
Let’s begin by helping hospitals and health systems optimize operations. AI allows healthcare organizations to automate a variety of tasks including eligibility, order management, prior authorizations, claims processing and more. AI doesn’t compromise the IT infrastructure you already have in place– it merely helps you run the tools you already have more efficiently.
Earlier I talked about the investments that healthcare organizations have made in a variety of technologies. When you hire someone, you don’t expect them to show up with their own applications to perform their duties. So why expect your AI to do the same? Instead, we should expect AI to adopt the tools that are already in place and use them to perform their duties just like any other human. Just like an employee, an AI solution can get an email address, EHR or system account, a VPN, and access to any other necessary tools that are essential to fulfilling an employees duties.
Because AI can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year, it will empower healthcare workers to spend less time processing data and more time focused on direct-patient care.
There will be obvious benefits that will come from AI including cost reductions, increased revenue, time saved, satisfaction for staff and patients alike, but for the sake of the people on the front lines of healthcare I truly believe AI will help reduce burnout and help scale human capacity by allowing us all to focus on the things that can only be accomplished by the wonders of the human brain.
Let me give you a quick example of what is possible with AI. I recently went on a site visit to a rural hospital in Georgia that has implemented AI to handle their eligibility and order management process. This is a 50 bed hospital, that is more than likely the largest employer in the area, and they didn’t even flinch when they saw AI as an opportunity. Instead of the doom and gloom that can be associated with AI, they focused on the overall positives.
The entire leadership team there got together and decided to send their Director of Patient Access to Disneyland for the Quality Service course taught by the Disney Institute. She was able to come back and reallocate her staff to direct-patient care and customer service needs rather than focusing on the repetitive, high-volume processes that they used to handle. Now will everything be that easy? Maybe not, but it does give us a glimpse of what is possible.
Now, let’s talk about how implementing AI can help not only organizations, but actual patients. Imagine having hundreds of instances of AI live at health systems around the country. Let’s say that you are traveling across the country for a family reunion and while you’re eating at a rest stop you chip a part of your tooth. Now you don’t want to show up at this reunion with a chipped tooth so you text and AI solution and say “hey I chipped my tooth can you find me a dentist that I can fix it for me asap?” The AI solution replies back and says “there are five dentists in this area that take your insurance and since I am logged into their schedules. I can tell you that these are the available times which one would you like for me to schedule?” You text back ”2pm” and then the AI solution gathers all the information of dentists you’ve ever been to, puts it together, and inserts it into the system of the dentist that you are going to. There’s no need for forms, or eligibility checks. The necessary information and data is there. That is the type of future that we can provide to consumers and that is the type of future that I want to be a part of with AI.
Click Less, Care More.
We work in an industry that has historically been left behind in technological revolutions — so it’s incumbent on each of us to make a commitment to move our technologies and organizations forward with AI. Once we’ve delegated our data heavy tasks back to computers, we’ll empower our teams to stand back up, click less, and care more. Doctors, nurses, and even clerical staff will finally be able to give their full attention to creating communities within your health networks, without the stress of tasks that are better suited for machines. AI will work alongside of us — not instead of us — in every department, of every organization. When our human capabilities are augmented with AI, we can create communities instead of walls like we’ve always imagined. Integrations cause stress, confusion, and headaches… but outegrations can transform our facilities into innovation centers capable of transforming the way we provide healthcare.
If you would like to learn more about how CrossChx is helping hospitals and health systems around the country Outegrate with Everything by hiring Olive, our AI solution, please visit hireolive.com/outegrate