Datica Podcast

August 13, 2019

4x4 Health Sage Advice: Roots, Mentors & Being Kind

Maulin Shah, M.D. is Chief Informatics Engineer for Providence St. Joseph Health. On his episode of 4x4 Health we discussed his journey from implementor of electronic health records (EHRs) to Health IT innovator. Given his depth of experience and his innate passion, his advice to “remember your roots” is sage indeed.

David Butler, M.D. is the Founder and Principal of Calyx Consulting. David has a long track record of success when it comes to leading top health care organizations through the process of selecting and deploying health IT applications. Given his experience and humor he also offers an entertaining and worthy pet-peeve and some very sage advice.

Justin Adams is the co-founder and CEP of Digitize.AI. As a relative newcomer to healthcare Justin offers some fresh and astute observations about the current economic and operational state and opportunities to “stop putting band aids on problems and completely rethink them.” He gives some sage and moving advice about the benefits of being kind in our personal, public, and business relationships.


Dr. Dave Levin: Welcome to 4x4 Health sponsored by Datica. Datica; Bringing health care to the cloud. Check them out at www.datica.com. I’m your host Dr. Dave Levin. One of my favorite parts of 4x4 Health is when our guests offer their most sage advice. It’s been fascinating and enlightening to hear the wide range of responses on this open-ended question. Some guests offer sage advice about work others about life. They’re consistently wise and from the heart. As part of our summer hiatus we’re revisiting some of this great wisdom. We hope you find these sage mashups as inspiring as we do. My good friends Dr. Maulin Shah and Dr. David Butler helped us kick off the 4x4 Health podcast by being our first two guests. Later in the season Justin Adams joined us to talk about practical applications of AI. Maulin, Dave, and Justin had some truly sage advice about doing great work and developing your full capacity as a leader and as a human being. Maulin is Chief Informatics Engineer for Providence St. Joseph Health, the second largest non-profit health system in America, where he focuses on maximizing the value of EHR through optimization and innovation. He’s also increasingly involved in the world of health IT start-ups.

Dr.Dave Levin: Let’s wrap up and Maulin take us home by giving us your most sage advice.

Dr. Maulin: Well I save it never forgetting your roots is an important thing no matter who you are and where you are, and in informatics and in my career it means not forgetting what it’s like to be a practicing physician on the line, taking care of a second crashing patient in the ICU, knowing what the stresses are really like and staying clinically relevant, I quit my practice about two years ago because I just couldn’t keep doing both. But staying in the hospital, staying in the clinic, staying on the side of our clinicians so that we’re in their service, we’re the service of our patients, we’re in the service of our clinicians and not forgetting that and kind of getting lost in technology or getting lost in some grand scheme of patient quality improvement that doesn’t have any basis in reality is to curb it all.

Dr. Dave Levin: Well I think that’s beautiful, if I could build on that I would add remember what it’s like to be a patient or to have a love right as a patient as well. And like you I think it provides the mission and the work and it provides grounding as you make what are often very difficult decisions where there’s no clear right answer, and I have also found that for my IT colleagues it really helps to connect them to the meaning and importance of their work as well, so I think that’s wonderfully sage advice.

Dr. Dave Levin: Next up is David Butler, founder and Principal of Calyx Consulting. David is a well-known health IT leader with deep expertise in deploying and utilizing information technology. His consulting firm focuses solely on EHR post-live efficiency training, EHR optimization, and strategic planning for clients like NYC Health and Hospitals, Guthrie Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic. I asked Dave the sage advice question too, but before I did, knowing that he and I can get carried away sometimes, I reminded him that 4x4 Health is a family show …

Dr. Dave Levin: Okay, Dave. So last question. What is your most sage advice?

Dr. Butler: Okay, this will be quick. I found my sage advice to folks that I run into a lot, a lot of positions or email me because they may be wanting to try something different outside of the normal traditional patient encounter type thing or a young folks, oh it’s coming up thinking about med school, residency informatics and they’ll call me. So I think the number one thing I tell them now is find a mentor. Look around, find anyone out there that’s doing what you think you might want to do and un-bill yourself enough to make a call. Call on three or four or five time bugged the heck out of them. Just say, Hey, I don’t want anything from you. I just want to know if we can maybe spend an hour every two months where I just update you on what I’m doing. And then you just tell me what you see and what you hear as far as what I’m saying. And, and helped me to get to be like, yeah, I don’t know to be like you even, you know. So these are things that I just had to learn and some of them, they weren’t always doctors. And also I had to learn like the mentor should be someone, then maybe I have a financial mentor, I have a spiritual mentor, you know, they don’t have to be the same person, you know? And so I think mentorship is so important and making time to get that mentorship is this invaluable, you know? And I think that’s my sage advice. And last thing is just always placed learnings before earnings, right? So many folks just want to, well, I can’t take a pay cut like that, or I can’t do this or I can’t do that. I hadn’t even heard students, even my own daughter, you know, sometimes their son, they may, they may frown upon doing things for free. A minimum amount of money, right? Building a website for someone you know, for, you know, just volunteering too. And you know, he’s computer science or whatever. I’m like, well, you playing Fortnight right now, uh, I’m about to build a website. Well, I’m just a good experience. You know? He’s like, oh, that makes sense. They don’t always think like that. Right. I think those are some things I really encouraged now with doctors, I say volunteer on a technology committee or something and that may cost you a little time in the evening, but I think you’ll realize over the long game it’s definitely, yeah, payback in 20s.

Dr. Dave Levin: Well, Dave, this is why you’re such a terrific and well recognized leader in healthcare and health IT, I mean so much of what you said today are the basic elements of the servant leader. You surround yourself with smart people and you engage them and empower them. You ask a lot of questions, you think about governance and not what, not just what needs to be done, but how should it be done? You’re, you’re encouraging of people to use mentors and to focus on learning. Couldn’t agree more. I’m a, I’m a huge fan of mentors. I’m a huge fan of executive coaching. I’m a huge fan of formal cultural work in organizations. You’re singing all of my favorite tunes, that’s for sure. I’ll that I’ll never forget. I was contemplating a really terrific job offer. It was a big leap for me. And I went to one of my mentors and of course I’m a southern boy and he was a grizzled old southern gentleman, uh, who had advised me many times over the years. And he looked at me, said, well Dave, you did pretty good plan and the junior varsity is a chance for you to play for the varsity. And I knew at that moment, I knew at that moment what he was trying to tell me and what I should do. So I couldn’t agree more about mentors. Dave, thanks so much for talking with us today.

Dr. Butler: Yeah, no, this was great. I’m honored that you asked me to be on your show or your podcast. I know this is a new venture here. I’m excited. You know, once again, this is, this is what is needed, this kind of dialogue that happens outside of some of the normal areas of this healthcare informatics. So I’m all about it, Dave.

Dr. Dave Levin: Our final sage advice today comes from Justin Adams, co-founder and CEO of Digitize.AI. Justin and his team are using artificial intelligence to transform how healthcare is administered by applying it to common processes like insurance preauthorization. Justin has more than a decade working with artificial intelligence and automation and has also worked in the intelligence community. His sage advice really struck home with me.

Dr. Dave Levin: What’s your most sage advice for us?

Justin: So, my most sage advice is pretty simple but to be kind. So, I think there’s way too much animosity in our society right now and I think businesses and startup leaders have a responsibility to create an organizational culture of kindness. I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to work with and for some a wide variety of leaders including Four-Star Generals to Fortune 50 CEOs but also in that mix of this include some world class jerks and never once were those jerks more effective leaders than the ones who were kind. So, you know in addition to being kind you know, having that be the right thing to do, I think it also makes the most business sense. So, if you believe like I do that human capital and high functioning teams are the biggest competitive advantage your organization can have, it just makes the most sense. So, I’ve seen plenty of unsuccessful teams that were as sound technically or hire better ideas as any other but the didn’t trust each other and ultimately didn’t succeed. So, if you look at the root cause of that I think it really comes down to a lack of trust and cynicism and too often I think organizations make success of zero sum game for their team and so I’m a huge believer in the rising tide lifting and all those are digitizes, three core values or trust transparency and courage and those are the things that we really try to live out. So, certainly being kind to one another and being kind to all the people that we interact with I think is again, simple but sage advice.

Dr. Dave Levin: Well, that’s just really terrific and definitely makes my heart sing. I could not agree more that not only is it the right thing to do but it’s god business and I would highly encourage our listeners to check out the work done under the title firms of endearment, for our hard data that shows that companies and individuals that behave this way towards their colleagues, towards their customers, towards their competitors, outperform the SNP-500, outperform the good great companies. It’s fascinating work and you know, the other thing for me is we spend a lot of time at work and so to have that be an environment, that’s encouraging and nurturing and just a nice place to be. I think it’s just important to life in general. Now, it’s called work for a reason, right. Justin, it’s not play, it’s work but the way we approach, it can make a huge difference. So boy, I really appreciate and admire your sage advice.

Dr. Dave Levin Never forget your roots and stay close to the work. Cultivate all kinds of mentors. Be kind. Sage advice indeed if you want to really understand how to deliver great solutions, and develop your full potential as a leader and as a person. Thank you to Maulin, Dave, and Justin for sharing this advice.