June 19, 2023: Laura O’Toole, CEO at Suretest joins Bill for the news. What are the financial pressures that healthcare systems are currently facing? How have healthcare organizations addressed the workforce issue? Why did organizations need to address high overtime rates for employees? How will AI impact relationships? Is there an illusion of relationships created by technology? What are the potential consequences of relying on technology for relationships? What is the importance of in-person connections in the workplace? How does the rising cost of education impact the workforce and employment opportunities?
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Today on This Week Health.
Everyone's talking about ai, being a nuclear bomb, you know, he thinks it's gonna be accretive and so do I. It's a fun time to be in healthcare and in, and startups that are focusing on ai.
Welcome to Newsday A this week Health Newsroom Show. My name is Bill Russell. I'm a former C I O for a 16 hospital system and creator of this week health, A set of channels dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged. For five years we've been making podcasts that amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward.
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(Main) 📍 all right. It's Newsday, and today I am joined by Laura O'Toole, founder and c e o of SureTest. Laura, welcome to the show.
Hey, bill, great to see you as always.
Well, I'm looking forward to the conversation. We always have great conversations and we have some interesting stories today.
It's been a while since I've talked to you, so let's just talk about healthcare in general before we get to some of the stories. I mean, what are you hearing or feeling in healthcare right now? What's, What's the mood amongst, I don't know, potentially clients or people that you're talking to?
I think they're still struggling with financial pressures. Certainly we're seeing that in order to get work done, it's gotta get done within a budget year. And most healthcare systems are July and October, so we're starting to really gear up and get busy with some projects getting started.
But, generally I would say, I think the workforce issue seems to be quieting down a little bit. My sense is that. Especially a lot of our c i O colleagues have put some, whether they're technologies or processes in place to help their business counterparts figure out how they can maximize their nurse staffing to make sure that they're utilizing their own employees first rather than the high spend on all the travelers.
I think that they're sharing practices amongst each other. I'm hearing, and that seems to be getting at least a little bit better for 'em.
Yeah, it was, it was not sustainable to have. 250 to $300 an hour overtime rates for any employee, quite frankly. So, so yeah, I think organizations have gotten in front of that pretty quickly.
We're gonna talk a little bit today about different work situations and whatnot. I'm gonna go to an article. That I read last week and that you picked out of the lineup. So I, yeah, I sent you some articles and this is one while I was on vacation last week. I read and it really got me thinking it's wall Street Journal article.
It was May 29th. And the title is Why AI will Make Our Children More Lonely. Now, I, the first topic I think is interesting. I don't think it's overly relevant for us, but it goes into a bunch of topics that are relevant for us like, the workforce and hiring. Work-life balance and the future of ai.
But I'm gonna touch on the first one cuz it's just so freaking interesting to me. Yeah, I agree. So, interview with Scott Galloway, founder of a bunch of companies, board member of others business school professor at nyu. Outspoken critic of big tech driven society. And he was asked, how will AI change the home and family lives of people in this room?
He said, first you'll get richer, your kids will get lonelier and more depressed. And he talks about this concept of empty calories and the illusion of relationships, the illusion of comradery and friendships and social that tech actually gives you, you feel like you have a lot of friends cuz people are liking your content or swiping right or all that stuff.
You feel like you're an investor because you're on a trading app and you are. You're essentially, you don't know anything about trading, but you're doing all this crazy stuff. And he is like, that's not trading, that's gambling. Right. And it's an addiction. And he talks about all those things and he says, we have a series of replacements fueled by technology for relationships, mentorships, the workplace, friendships.
Romantic relationships. And in the short term it sort of fills a void, but it's empty calories. And I think it will end up creating a more depressed group of people. And he said, we're mammals. We're supposed to be around each other. And he worries that there's a cohort, especially of young people.
That of young men that he thinks are going to essentially check out a society and fill up on those empty calories. And this is a precursor for, what do we do in the workplace for this. But I'm curious what your thoughts are just on, on that section alone.
Well, it's interesting, I think this article resonated with me many, probably for some of the same reasons it did you, in that we both have, adult children Right.
That are in this space. So I'm like let me go, let me check this out. I wanna take a look at this. There was a few things that he said that were really interesting to me. One, when he talked about how HR is he's considered a critic to hr. The HR folks give him a hard time in his companies and the people that he deals with because he's one that believes.
I think he's about remote workforce. If you haven't, a sick parent or you're sick yourself, but he's all about, let's get people back together because that's where relationships happen. They happen at work and, the majority of those relationships that are formed are perfectly appropriate and it's a great opportunity for a.
Young kids to meet people. So I thought that was an interesting take cuz you know, we're hearing, such disparity there where some people are, nope, if you can't have young people being remote, you're not gonna be able to hire them. So I thought that was an interesting perspective and I don't think that.
We're all thinking enough about just this loss of connectedness that these kids have and really getting good social skills. The other thing that I thought was interesting that he said was you know, you need to think outside of the box in terms of the people that you employ. Not everybody has to have a college degree, and we get a little uppity saying, well, you know, if you haven't graduated from a four year school or you haven't gotten your advanced degree, we don't want you.
He said we're missing out on talent that is out in the market. So I thought that was interesting from a human capital perspective. But when he started talking about how a young man right, has to have a thousand swipes in order to get a cup of coffee, because what's happening is women.
With ai, you're able to be so discreet about what you want and what you don't want, and it makes it really hard for people to connect and meet people. The other thing that really dawned on me is so many kids in this generation are saying they don't wanna have children. Now, I haven't had that conversation with my son.
He's a little bit younger I think, than yours. And yours is married. Mine's not. I was like, oh my gosh, does my son even wanna have children? I don't wanna be called grandma, but I wanna be a Mimi or a Lala or something,
you know? Oh man. Alright, so you threw out a bunch of this stuff.
He goes in, into the next section, he goes into, what about the workforce? And he talks about this, essentially elevating education. Where it's not necessary in a lot of these roles. And I think that's a, that's an important distinction. When I graduated from college, my senior year, I think my tuition not room and board, but tuition was $15,000.
Fast forward and, I get that phone call every year. Hey, this is the student from your former college. Just wanna know if you're gonna give money, right? And so I, I just asked him the question. How much is your tuition this year? And so the same college I went to is $40,000 for tuition.
15 to $40,000 and I'm like, okay. Why is that? They don't have any more land? I mean, they have put up some buildings and that kinda stuff, but they're raising separate money for that. I mean, the it's gotten untenable and I was just on vacation, I was with my son and we were talking about education, and I'm like, when your kids go to college, how much do you think it's gonna cost?
And he's like, well, at this rate it's gonna be a hundred thousand dollars a year per kid. And there are some colleges in the US that are a hundred thousand dollars per kid. Per year. Yeah. And you're like, that can't be sustainable and part of that's on us as employers looking out and saying, Hey, what roles do we have that.
Don't require people to go $400,000 in debt in order to do the job. that's part of it. I thought that was interesting. the one thing I do wanna talk to you about is he says he's a big fan of remote work, as you said, for caregivers. both ends for children.
So that women don't get disconnected from the workforce or men for that matter, whoever's staying home with the child. Mm-hmm. And for adult for senior care, right? And we all have that situation at some point in our lives where we're caring for our parents. And he said, he thinks there should be dispensation for that.
But he goes on to talk about a special group and he says, but for the people under the age of 40, I think the office is a feature, not a bug. Yeah. And that it's a fantastic place to find friends, mentors, and mates. And we don't like to talk about it, but. One out of three relationships begins in the workplace.
This is where hr, he's an HR nightmare cuz he's essentially saying, no, I'm okay If people, they go out on dates and they meet each other there cuz where else are they gonna meet if they're working 12 hour days? Than at work. And this idea of mentors, I think is being lost in this environment.
I I remember my mentoring relationships with my staff and people who have asked me for mentoring relationships. It's a lot of serendipity. It's a lot of. Walking around a conference hall or walking down the hall or just having conversations or introducing them to people that they wouldn't normally meet.
And having them sit in on conversations I was having with somebody and they were just, they got to see, oh, that's how that interaction happens. Or that's, that's how you deal with a vendor in that situation and that kind of stuff. That kind of mentoring, I think is being lost. In the name of, oh my gosh, we're not gonna be able to hire him.
And I like the fact that he says the office is a feature, not a bug. In this system. He's bending the paper here. It's definitely different than what we're currently thinking. My company's completely remote. Your company is mostly remote as well?
Completely remote. I mean, with the exception of, some of our back office folks, but even they only go get together once a week when they have to look at certain things.
We're all remote.
How does mentoring occur? I mean, let's just bounce this back and forth. I'm not gonna put you on the spot, but that's okay. How do we make sure that mentoring is still occurring for those people? I mean this one of the reasons Jamie Diamond gives, one of the primary reasons that he gives that Chase is coming back into the office.
He's like, look, they can't learn to trade unless they're at the elbow with another trader. They can't learn to. Do these things unless they're at the elbow with somebody else. So I, he goes, I have no problems asking people to come back in the office. And if they don't, if they're like, look other, there's other places I can go work, then they should go work there.
But there's gonna be a group of people that realizes what we offer is a superior training ground for their future, and they're gonna come work here so they can stand next to somebody who has actually done the work.
Absolutely. I mean, my son's in that business and they've come up with a hybrid. He's going in, three days a week, not five.
But in terms of mentoring, I mean, I think it's just an obligation of leadership. So I don't know if you saw, we're thrilled. We just got named in Modern Healthcare's best Places to Work for the first year this year that we were eligible to apply. And I think one of the reasons for that is we take it very seriously because we are remote.
We actually have a structured program in terms of, people having a buddy. And it starts from the top all the way down. So I even have buddies with my own mentors on other boards, and I think it's important. And what I've found is I've had more people reach out to me that. I'm proud of and happy that I've touched in their career no matter where they are.
And those are the conversations I'm having, on a weekend or if I'm driving somewhere because it's a need and people are really longing for it. So I think it needs to be something that you ingrain in your culture and you make it important. And as a leader, you make yourself available for people.
So if somebody calls you and you're busy, text them back and say, Hey I'm busy right now, but I can talk to you tonight, or I can talk to you, for half hour tomorrow. I think if someone reaches out, And they, even if they don't leave a message, there's a reason they're reaching out.
And I think it's about awareness and we have an obligation to create that connectedness for people.
Yeah, it's interesting. I was picked out early on in my career and people mentored me just all along the way. And so when I became a CIO for a health system, I just thought this was normal.
And I identified like three or four people within the organization and started mentoring them. And what that looked like was, again, special conversations or special invites. I gave them opportunities for things. We had things like they would listen to we were listening to the same podcast and we'd have conversations like this podcast and they'd have a conversation about it.
I got them executive coaches, and by the way, these weren't just the VPs, these, this was identified people throughout the organization. I'm like, that person's there, but my gosh, that person is really gonna move through the organization. Yeah. And so I got them executive coaches and the, that, that level, they typically didn't have an executive coach.
It was such a huge game changer. They progressed even faster because of that access. Now somebody's gonna say something about fairness and whatnot, and quite frankly, I do not care. Because the reason they were selected is because they, first of all, they made themselves available. They they came out and said, look, I want more from my career.
So they made their. Their desires known. They had a track record of success doing things that others around them would not do. And we're gonna talk about that, actually, let's talk about it now. He talks about work life balance. And the question is Gen Z workers in their first interviews are asking about work-life balance.
What's the right way to think about this? I'm gonna read this whole paragraph cuz it's it sets it up. So well work-life balance is a myth. This is Galloway talking work-life balance is a myth. I've taught 5,500 students at NYU and he does a survey where, Where do you expect to be in five years economically?
And something like 90% plus. Of them expect to be in the top 1% economically by the age of 30. Right. I get it. It's great, but it means you're gonna have no life other than work or very little life. I don't remember my twenties and thirties other than work. It cost me my hair, it cost me my first marriage.
And he goes on to say it was worth it. He's very provocative. He ends with the, with this section, with this you can have it all. You just can't have it all at the same time. You can't have it all at once. If you expect to be in the top 10%, economically much less, the top 1% buck up two decades plus of nothing but work.
That's my experience and those people that I was mentoring. They, it wasn't a lot of, Hey, I, I've already worked 40 hours this week. I'm sorry, bill, I can't meet you for breakfast because I don't, I just don't have time to, it's people who are choosing to invest in themselves and saying, Hey, you wanna meet for dinner?
Sure, I'll meet for dinner. You wanna meet for breakfast? Sure, I'll meet for breakfast. Cuz at the end of the day I mean I made the decision. I was working 60 hour weeks easily. Right? And a lot of that was making myself available for the people I was mentoring and bringing along. And it's interesting this whole idea of Jen, I hear this work-life balance thing all the time, and I'm like, well, that's fine.
If you like your salary, if you like your quality of life, if you, but don't come to me and say, oh my gosh, and I want to be in the top quartile of everyone doing my job. I'm like, it just, it's so rare that somebody who's limiting their availability. It's going to get to that top 1% and that's the point he is making.
Yeah, I mean, I have this conversation even with my son all the time. You get what you give you give more time, you make yourself more available to have the opportunities to talk to people, to learn. It's gonna make a difference for you.
And I agree with you, bill. I mean, I think that we still have to pay attention to those people that are willing to go the extra mile, because if you're gonna invest. Your time and I'm gonna invest my time. We wanna do it with those employees that wanna do it for themselves, there are no victims.
I'm a firm believer. The only victims are animals and little children, so, Don't be a victim, do something about it and, get the connectedness. And I think we have the obligation to find ways for them to connect, particularly with so many of us working remotely. So we have to create the opportunity.
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We hope to see you there. Now, back to our show.
And I, anyone who's listening to this, who's a staff member Yeah. You really have to step up and say, I here's my expectations for the role, or Here's what I would like next in my role. A lot of times we sit back and it's interesting, we did a survey of our staff at St.
Joe's and it's, the question was pretty simple. It was, do you know what the next role is in your career trajectory or career path? And it was staggering. I was, I was literally knocked back when I read it. It was like 70%, had no idea what was next in their career. Yeah. And that was our fault.
But it's also I wanted to say to the employees, if you don't know what's next, why aren't you asking? Yeah,
I mean it's a, it's about participation and participation has to be a two-way street. That's the way I see it. And he was pretty clear in this article. He is provocative.
I agree with you, but it made me think this article, I love this article. It made me think about a lot of things. Things. It made me a little more comfortable. Everyone's talking about ai, being a nuclear bomb, you know, he thinks it's gonna be accretive and, so, so do I. It's a fun time to be in healthcare and in, and startups that are focusing on ai.
We need to go there. It, staff costs too much money. We have to find a hybrid approach. And use AI the right way. So, I think it's a balance. I think it's a balance and people have to
Yeah. The, it's rare that we do this, but we're gonna end up doing one, one article on this whole show.
That's okay. I do wanna hit this ai fu and the reason I like it is cuz we talked about workforce, we're talking about career development, we're talking about mentoring. And now we're gonna talk about the future of ai. And the article closes with this section. He's asked, what's your career advice for a young adult right now regarding ai?
And he says he's an optimist just like you. He's, it's gonna be a creative, there's gonna be some things that, there's gonna be creative destruction. Some roles are gonna go away, some new roles are gonna be created. Right? That always happens. And he says, you should identify the areas that can be disrupted.
He gives the example of Netflix. In that, in your cable bill. Yeah. Yeah. He goes, the cable bill was going up to 120 bucks, and then all of a sudden Netflix comes out and you could stream it for $12 a month, and people are going, Hey, that's that's a lot less than 120. It's a good alternative.
And so, it's, it is interesting, his conclusion. He says The most disruptable industry in the world as a function of crisis increasing faster than inflation relative to the underlying innovation or lack thereof, is hands down US healthcare. Yeah. And He says, I haven't had health insurance in five years.
And I tell people I don't have health insurance. It's like they, they be, they look at him and say, you're a bad citizen and you're not a good dad. And he says, no, health insurance is nothing but a transfer of wealth from the poor who can't absorb a big shock to the rich who can. He says, th this whole sector's ripe for AI disruption.
And he believes there's gonna be so many little AI-driven healthcare companies that go after the American healthcare complex. And he said if he was talking to somebody who's 22, 25, 30 and they were choosing where to invest their human capital it's, where there's gonna be a reshuffling of shareholder value and it's going to be AI driven startups in the healthcare space.
That's where you live. You live in that, that is, yeah,
We do live in that. I thought it was a really interesting comment. I mean, it certainly shows the disparity in our country in terms of access to care, which is, just really upsetting to me personally. But yeah, we live there and.
It's been really interesting because a couple of the other articles that we looked at that we didn't get to, it was all about, making sure that the digital front door works and that you're testing that workflow and when you live in an automation space, you have more opportunity to make sure.
That care is gonna be available because you're testing the workflow and you're using AI to really make sure how we deliver care to patients and that it's happening effectively. So it was fun for me to read that because we live in that space. Of course, we all live in healthcare. We're in healthcare because we love, you know what we do.
I mean, there's a reason I think most people stay in healthcare for. For me, 30 years now, I'm really starting to date myself, and I even said Mimi and all those other things, but I, we're all in healthcare for a reason and it's a cool place to be. And I was, I really enjoyed his article.
I the challenge I have for CIOs who are listening to this is we've gotta change our focus. Our focus is usually around the, the people closest to us. So it's us first, then it's our staff and our people, and then it's the community. And the reality is the community is suffering.
Yeah. They're suffering from, surprise bills. The cost of healthcare keeps going up as a percentage of their income. They can't afford it, and they live in constant fear that there's gonna be a significant event that, causes them to lose everything that they've worked for. That's what's going on out there.
And we're sitting here going, I'm worried, first and foremost about losing my job. Then I'm worried about reducing my staff. Then I'm reduced, worried about reducing staff in our health system where everything that we're doing is potentially leading to a significant amount of stress in the community.
I'd reverse that completely, by the way. I would think first about the community and say, can we deliver the same quality of care, the same level of care with less cost and less cost has to be labor related because it is the biggest cost in healthcare. And yes, some people. Will leave healthcare and have to find jobs outside of healthcare.
And that is painful. But it's, you're trading pain for relief. Right. Exactly. You're trading pain amongst your staff or amongst the staff of the health system for relief out there. Now it's gotta translate into, Hey, we've, we did a 20% reduction. Has to translate into lower cost of healthcare for the community.
And when all it translates into is larger profits, that's not helpful at all. So hopefully, exactly. Hopefully we make that progress.
Well, I think it's all gonna come full circle. And even as related to this article, I think the most innovative are gonna win. And I think the staff that is a part of the most innovative organizations are going to win.
And if you as an employee are willing to go. On the trajectory of innovation, even if it's a little bit scary, because you're gonna have to do something different. You're gonna use automation, you're gonna use more AI to help do your job. I think those are the organizations and those are the staff. When we talked about that staff earlier, bill, that are gonna win, everything's gonna come full circle, and in the end, the community wins and we're gonna be delivering better care.
That's fantastic. Laura, you get the last word, and I thank you for your time today. It's always great to hang out and talk through stories with you.
Well, I just wanna wish you a great weekend. I know you have another great event coming up with your round table CIOs. As you know, I've been to some of those.
I think they're fantastic and I hope you have a great weekend. We're thrilled to be participating and I hope all your CIOs get to share a little tidbit and a best practice to make each other better.
Yeah, I'm I always learn something every time we get together, so looking forward to it. Thanks again, Laura.
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