Embrace positive disruption. Why should we simply accept today’s standards? Progress and transformation are only achieved when people fight through challenge and uncertainty. So, get out of your comfort zone — and enjoy the ride!
As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Mike Golebiowski, Vice President for Marketing, Healthcare Strategy & Innovations at B. Braun Medical Inc.
Mike has been working in pharmaceutical and medical device marketing and product management for more than 20 years. He began his career with B. Braun Medical in 1999 and now leads the marketing efforts for B. Braun’s Healthcare Strategy and Innovations team. Mike holds an undergraduate degree in Business from Cal State Fullerton, as well as an MBA from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I don’t have one specific “aha!” moment I can point to and say, “that’s when I knew I was destined for healthcare.” That said, I have always loved helping people. I attribute that to my mom, who told me later in life that she wanted to be a nun. (Thankfully, for my sake, she wasn’t!) My dad died when I was only two years old, so it was my mom who shaped and guided me as a child. I suppose I just paired my interest in the sciences with my desire to help people, and realized healthcare could offer a steady, stimulating career with real potential to positively impact lives.
I love looking into the future, too. It’s interesting how each area of healthcare has its own unique issues, but from a strategic standpoint you have to look at the sum. I enjoy opportunities to identify important trends, and then create concepts that — with a lot of blood, sweat and tears — can ultimately benefit patients.
I think that’s the most rewarding part for me. In my current role at B. Braun I get to go after some of the tough, challenging issues in healthcare. They’re not easy to solve. However, when we can bring together cross-functional teams, and address crucial issues, and then see the improvement in patients’ lives — it’s very, very rewarding.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early in my career, I was involved in creating products for Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) therapy, or IV nutrition therapy. It’s quite complex. You have to take up to 18 different ingredients, for example, and make sure they’re precise for each individual. There are lots of challenges, but I didn’t fully realize the impact until I started going into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
It’s mind-blowing when you see a one- or two-kilogram baby who fits in the palm of your hand, and you have to determine how to feed that infant so it can grow, thrive, and catch up to normal state. Science has made huge strides in TPN therapy over the past 30–40 years — in fact, we almost take it for granted now — but building precision and accuracy into TPN compounding technology still presents major hurdles even today.
Going into the NICU really validated for me why I’m in this space. It taught me that we must never move forward until we’ve addressed each challenge — no matter how complex — and we must never give up. It is with this in mind that my team and I created an important benchmark, as simple as asking ourselves, “If this were your own baby, would you sign off on it?”
Every time you go into the NICU and see these tiny babies fighting to live, you realize your difficulties are nothing in comparison to what you’re seeing in front of you. That set the bar for me.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There is a lot of talk in the industry about patient-centered healthcare, but varying degrees of adoption. I can tell you a personal story about how B. Braun walks the walk when it comes to a patient-centered mindset.
Last year I almost lost my mom — everyone calls her Mama G. — to a heart attack. Fortunately, the doctors saved her life. However, she had veritable battle scars from all the peripheral IV catheters (PIVCs) they used.
Nobody likes being stuck with needles, but PIVC is the most common invasive procedure performed in hospitals. In U.S. hospitals alone it’s done nearly 200 million times every year. Unfortunately, it has an astonishing 33%-69% failure rate. That means patients have to endure needle stick after needle stick during their hospital stays, rather than a “once-and-done” experience.
When Mama G. went back to the hospital for complications following her heart attack, the importance of creating a better PIVC experience hit close to home. She was told she needed a central line due to challenges with her peripheral lines. Central lines are much more invasive and I was concerned about infections, so I begged the new nurse, Roberta: Was a central line really necessary? We were lucky: Roberta was highly skilled at PIVC placement so that Mama G. didn’t need a central line. Roberta only stuck her only once at the mid-forearm and it lasted her the entire stay.
After my grateful thank you, I said, “Roberta, we need to talk!” I wanted to know the practical reasons why other nurses were unable to do what Roberta did. My work at B. Braun encourages me to explore the question: What can we change to make the patient experience better, less painful, less vulnerable?
After this experience and a lot of research, I am proud to say we were successful developing a program that enhances PIVC product design, skills training, tools and education methods. We’re now partnering with U.S. health systems to increase clinician knowledge and confidence in this critical skill. Amidst all the talk about patient-centered healthcare, what I appreciate about B. Braun is its real commitment to making sure that we never overlook or minimize patient safety or the patient experience.
What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?
First and foremost, I’d suggest that all healthcare leaders reinforce positivity. Remember to say “thank you” as often as you sincerely can. Our healthcare providers simply don’t hear it enough.
Our industry is complex. There are so many challenges outside of providers’ control — like policy changes, EMR compliance, little time with patients, understaffing, and ultimately job fatigue. Yet despite all of these issues, providers continue to deliver on a daily basis. What they do has a tremendous impact on people’s lives, and they need to know their leaders appreciate it.
Healthcare leaders can help their teams thrive by having their backs. That means acknowledging the obstacles but advancing collaborative improvement efforts. It also means encouraging providers to stay patient-focused. After all, the opportunity to care for patients is why we all got into this industry in the first place. We must never lose sight of that. We must lead by our own example, and always put patients at the center of our actions and decisions.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
In my opinion, several key factors influence our rating:
1. Administrative costs: Administrative costs in the U.S. are up to eight times higher than elsewhere.
2. Regulation: FDA requirements and regulations present some of the highest hurdles in the industry to clear, which can create barriers to entry and hinder competition.
3. Tort reform: Healthcare organizations in the U.S. are afraid to admit mistakes for fear of litigation. Unfortunately, in our culture of liability, physicians have to practice defensive medicine.
4. Pharmaceuticals: In certain categories, drug spending per capita in the U.S. is much higher than in other countries.
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
Overall, we can’t improve healthcare using the same methods or thought processes we’ve used previously to deliver care. We must alter the very way we think about care delivery, starting with:
1. Make patient data more accessible and shared. Healthcare needs big tech. In particular, we need the data mining experience big tech brings to the table. As electronic patient data and records improve and we start to incorporate more connected devices, big data analytics can offer greater insights into appropriate care. That’s especially important for preventative care. We know that cost and quality across the healthcare arena vary greatly. Through shared and accessible data, we can move from today’s one-size-fits-all approach — which doesn’t work — to more personalized care.
2. Promote the consumerism of healthcare. We need greater access to reliable information for proactive health decisions. At this point, we don’t really know how well our doctors or facilities are performing because data on patient outcomes and financial costs is difficult to find. Giving consumers easier access to scorecards and costs in order to make better healthcare decisions is beneficial for all. With organizations vying for our healthcare dollars, we should expect to see greater competition and standards.
3. Reduce the administrative burdens. The administrative side of healthcare is too complex and expensive as we deal with interactions across patients, payers, providers, and physicians. I’ve heard a lot of hype about blockchain, but I do see it as a great solution in the administrative space with smart contracts. Patient information protocols need to be created and addressed, but they can be streamlined if the right resources and guidelines are implemented.
4. Leverage health monitoring technologies. The only way for healthcare to survive economically moving forward is with connected, coordinated, and patient-centric care that’s focused on predictive and preventative solutions. Remote monitoring is the future. Over the next five to 10 years, I believe we’ll start to see technology come alive across healthcare. When we do get sick, the goal will be to see how quickly we can get into home recovery, with care enabled by the data and insights from home sensors, telemedicine solutions, and other devices.
5. Move toward “hospital-less” systems. The question of whether the U.S. should move to a one-payer system in which the volume of younger, healthier patients offsets the costs of older patient populations is a very political issue. Regardless the payer model, however, we already know that the old model of staffing for numerous hospital beds is expensive. That’s why we’re seeing a shift to out-patient procedures whenever possible. What we need to transition to is a system where only the very sick use the hospital — basically an ICU setting — while all other care is conducted in coordinated care sites. These might be places in your ZIP Code or at your employer, for instance. More medical devices should be at home, wrapped around existing consumer technologies providing alternative — but connected — healthcare.
Ok, it’s very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
First, individuals need to take a more proactive role in their health. That includes evaluating their healthcare costs and provider quality. Corporations need to provide more incentives for — and access to — preventative and alternative care. Communities need to share and compare population health data and provide mobility. Finally, leaders need to clean up policies and help remove existing barriers to change.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
Excellent providers are those who recognize healthcare is never one-size-fits-all. Rather, it has to be patient-centered and more personalized. They know the latest treatments may not apply to everyone, so they use technology tools to stay abreast of customized treatments options. Excellent providers don’t ever give up on patients — especially those who fall outside the norm. Even in the face of volume and reimbursement pressures, they’re willing to take the time to address the toughest challenges.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This isn’t a quote, but it’s a witticism that’s stuck with me. It goes like this: What do you call a doctor who finishes last in medical school? Answer: Doctor!
You may or may not find that funny, but it speaks volumes. Doctors are just like anybody else; some are better than others. Doctors who finish last in their class get the same degree as those who finish first. People trust their doctors and nurses and hospitals to know what’s best for their health, but with very little transparency into whether that trust is warranted. Sometimes patients have a great experience with their providers, but sometimes it’s not so great.
That’s what continually drives me. I’d like to help make the patient experience all that it should be. Medicine is a unique field because it’s one where you can truly see your impact on individual’s lives.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I’m very gratified to be part of B. Braun’s Peripheral Advantage program. We’re working with health systems across the U.S. to help deliver safe and consistent peripheral IV catheter (PIVC) care. It’s not exactly the sexiest of topics, but it’s fundamental to improving the patient experience. Let me paint the picture with some numbers:
• More than 70% of admitted patients require PIVCs
• PIVC failures range between 33% and 69%
• More than 50% of adults describe insertion as moderately painful or worse (according to Cooke, M., et al, Not “just” an IV line: Consumer perspective on PIVC, PLoS ONE 13(2), 2018).
Those statistics illustrate the need for better PIVC care. The exciting part is what we’re doing about it. For example, we found out that lack of good training is a key PIVC challenge. So, we’ve developed clinician skills training and continuing education (CE) accredited education programs. Alongside the training and education, we’ve designed products to work together to support proper vein identification and assessment, optimize catheter insertion, and promote effective catheter care. I think about my mom’s PIVC experience all the time. With better education, training and products, I know making PIVC placement a “once-and-done” process throughout therapy will improve the experience for providers and for patients.
One other exciting project involves stabilizing the IV fluid supply, which recently experienced an unfortunate shortage. That happened when a reduction in manufacturing capacity coincided with a spike in demand caused by severe influenza outbreaks, exacerbated by severe weather events. This is a serious issue, since IV fluids are essential for keeping patients hydrated. They’re also needed to administer drugs and replace blood loss — which are all fundamental aspects of patient care. I’m hopeful that B. Braun’s commitment to ensuring a consistent supply of IV fluids through significant manufacturing capacity improvements will help alleviate the potential for shortages of this vital supply.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
Healthcare is a hot topic these days, with plenty of controversy. Here are a few places where I find interesting and unique insights:
=> Administrator Seema Verma @seemaCMS — We need more female leaders in healthcare, and she’s trying to move the healthcare needle with innovation. It’s good to stay tuned to her and CMS.
=> Dr. Josh Luke @JoshLuke4Health — Dr. Luke is known as a healthcare “futurist,” and brings up some great points in his book “Ex-Acute.” He shares many podcast and articles, and speaks in the space. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, he provides honest assessments of the challenges we face. I appreciate his insights and like his approach.
=> Dr. Wacasey @HConomics — Dr. Wacasey points out how normal economics get twisted in healthcare, along with other interesting points in his lecture series. He has no shame in calling out issues with health insurance models.
=> Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog — His marketing advice and his daily blogs are awesome. You might want to sign up for the blog because you can’t call yourself a marketer (and we’re all marketers in some way) if you don’t keep up. One quote I love from him is, “No points for being busy. Points for doing work that matters.”
=> Lastly, my go-to book — one that I continue to review notes on — is “Tools of Titans.” I follow too many of the people highlighted in this book to mention. If you read the book, I’m sure you’ll find several people you’ll want to follow, too.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d encourage everyone to embrace positive disruption. Why should we simply accept today’s standards? Progress and transformation are only achieved when people fight through challenge and uncertainty. So, get out of your comfort zone — and enjoy the ride! In healthcare and in life, don’t be afraid to continually question, transform, and pursue new approaches that disrupt convenience in favor of the greater good.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can reach me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-golebiowski-80874728/
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
About the Author:
Originally from Israel, Limor Weinstein has been anorexic and bulimic, a “nanny spy” to the rich and famous and a Commander in the Israeli Army. Her personal recovery from an eating disorder led her to commit herself to a life of helping others, and along the way she picked up two Master’s Degrees in Psychology from Columbia University and City College as well as a Post-Graduate Certificate in Eating Disorder Treatment from the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.
Upon settling in New York, Limor quickly became known as the “go to” person for families struggling with mental health issues, in part because her openness about her own mental health challenges paved the way for open exchanges. She understood the difficulties many have in finding the right treatment, as well as the stigma that remains so prevalent towards those who are struggling with mental health issues. She realized that most families are quietly struggling with a problem they’re not comfortable talking about, and that discomfort makes it much less likely that they will get the help they need for their loved ones. She discovered that being open and honest about her own mental health challenges took the fear out of the conversations. Her mission became to research and guide those families to the highest-quality treatment available. Helping others became part of her DNA, as has a commitment to supporting and assisting organizations that perform research and treatment in the mental health arena.
After years of helping families by helping connect them to the right treatment and wellness services, Limor realized that the only way to ensure that they are receiving appropriate, coordinated and evidence-based care would be to stay in control of the entire treatment process. That realization led her to create Bespoke Wellness Partners, which employs over 100 of the best clinicians and wellness providers in New York and provides confidential treatment and wellness services throughout the city. Bespoke has built its reputation on strong relationships, personalized, confidential service and a commitment to ensuring that all clients find the right treatment for their particular issues.
In addition to her role at Bespoke Wellness Partners, Limor is the Co-Chair of the Academy of Eating Disorders. She lives with her husband, three daughters and their dog Rex in Manhattan.
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