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.
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