Jeff Fallon: “Choose your mission carefully and don’t give up”

Choose your mission carefully and don’t give up. Like the country song, ‘Buy Dirt’ by Jordan Davis, says, “do what you love and call it work”. The road to success is usually long and seldom easy, so the impact you see ahead will have to be important enough and personal enough to make you push […]

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Choose your mission carefully and don’t give up. Like the country song, ‘Buy Dirt’ by Jordan Davis, says, “do what you love and call it work”. The road to success is usually long and seldom easy, so the impact you see ahead will have to be important enough and personal enough to make you push through tough times. Twenty years into a medical device/pharma career, I clearly saw the urgency for patient engagement technology and chose to invest my work into making this a standard of care.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Fallon.

Jeff Fallon is a visionary thinker and strategist who brings more than 30 years of healthcare and technology experience to his role as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of eVideon Health. He has spent his career creating and providing solutions that transform the practice and experience of care for organizations such as Johnson & Johnson and notable patient experience technology companies. He is a passionate champion for technologies that improve the human experience of healthcare for patients and families, as well as the healthcare workforce.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I’m the youngest of 14 kids. I was raised in a Brady Bunch kind of family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Growing up in a musical family, I literally slept with a guitar in my hands. In high school, I thought I would play guitar and sing for a living but, fortunately, my folks made sure I had a college degree and a backup plan. Music remains incredibly important to me to this day and I’ve enjoyed fronting for local bands around Pittsburgh for many years.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The first 20 years of my career were in pharmaceuticals and medical devices where I spent all of my time with doctors and inside hospitals. I attended brain surgeries, total joint replacements, and witnessed the early days of coronary stenting, which were fascinating from a medical perspective. But the most interesting, or at least the most professionally important story for me was leading an innovation project between one of the world’s largest medical device companies and one of the most highly respected hospital brands on the planet. Inspired by Michael Porter’s book, Redefining Healthcare, this project made me realize the growing need for technology that would use automated, asynchronous video to better educate patients on their conditions; a solution that would serve as a value-add to an increasingly-stretched clinical care team that would be challenged in the emerging value-based care environment. That project, and its singular resulting insight, was a professional fork in the road for me and I’m honored to continue on this very important mission today, more than a decade later.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been many individuals who have helped me beyond what was reasonable at the time, and they’ve enabled me to be where I am at this exciting time in my career. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention members of the Cleveland Clinic’s leadership team in 2010 who introduced me to Michael Porter’s seminal book, Redefining Healthcare, and I could see a new and better future for healthcare as a result of it all. At the center of it all was the idea that engaging patients must be a primary strategy to achieve the triple aim in healthcare. That has been my professional mission ever since then.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“True power is gentle, and gentleness is truly powerful.” I’ve been both the giver and receiver of this idea done both well and not so well. Hence, the Life Lesson for me. I’ve learned that those who lose their cool are usually those who have little control or even influence over their circumstances and insufficient imagination to find a better way out of them. Having grace and giving it to others is almost always the shortest path to better.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I love quotes; they inspire me and a few are touchstones that I’ve carried throughout my career. These are some of the most important for me and they relate to this question.

Optimism: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals” — Henry Ford. I’ve been knocked down many times and will surely be again. Failing, but getting back up, focusing on the mission, and leaving the obstacles behind is the only option I see.

Trust: “Above all, success in business requires two things: a winning competitive strategy, and superb organizational execution. Distrust is the enemy of both”. — Stephen M.R. Covey. Our clients deserve our best so they can give their best to as many patients as possible and still have some of their best left for their families at the end of the day. This mission is too important and life’s too short to waste time in a company with low trust. They say culture starts at the top and trust is certainly no different. Recruiting exceptionally talented people and then trusting them is a cornerstone of my career.

Vision: “Imagination is more important than knowledge” — Albert Einstein. We’re developing new solutions to old problems, and it’s not as if folks haven’t tried to solve these problems before. With great respect for those who’ve invested themselves before us in this mission to empower patients, families, and caregivers, we believe it’s too early to say we have all the answers and they should simply buy them from us. We’re proud of what we’ve delivered so far, but we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s to come when we’re working closely with our clients to dream big together.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

eVideon’s mission is to enable patients to better understand the medical conditions that cause them to interact with the healthcare delivery system; to demystify their journey through the provider maze and all the clinical jargon at a time when they’re feeling vulnerable and possibly in fear for their lives laying in a hospital bed. And we seek to do this in a way that reduces the workload for nurses who are already short-staffed and overworked.

How do you think your technology can address this?

Hospitalized patients are surrounded by millions of dollars in technology, including amazing machines that deliver life-saving medicines, and devices that convey personal data about what’s happening inside the body to the care team. However, patient-facing hospital technologies are sadly out of date. The primary patient-to-hospital-care-team interfaces today are still 1970s “dry-erase whiteboards” and “nurse call” buttons. In what other business today would the service provider seek to engage their customers with this technology? Even the hospital television is shockingly out of date and incomparable to what most Americans have at home.

eVideon can economically transform this by making the television on the wall a smart device that is personalized for every patient based upon the demographics collected from the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). The result: a centralized information hub that welcomes the patient to the room in their preferred language, includes modern entertainment and relaxation that helps to distract them from their medical worries, and enables them to communicate with their care team and loved ones throughout their stay. Think of this personalized interface as another “digital front door” for the hospital, placed at a critical juncture in the patient’s healthcare journey, very near a moment of medical epiphany where many are most open to gaining a better understanding of their condition to prevent rehospitalization. Through integrating the smart devices to the EMR and other information systems that the hospital has invested in, this interface is personalized not only for demographics and language, but also, and most importantly, for the patient’s medical conditions so that education and information specific to each patient can be available at the bedside. eVideon can automate the delivery of video education as well as the documentation of completion and comprehension in the EMR: two tasks that nearly always fall on nursing staff to complete. Delivering personalized video education asynchronously and automatically reduces the administrative workload for nurses and empowers them to focus on the delivery of clinical care.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I was managing the business relationship with one of the most innovative health systems in the world on behalf of a large global medical device/pharma company. We were looking for new ways to deliver value beyond price to hospitals whose business model was changing from volume to value-based reimbursement. Chapter 7 in Michael Porter‘s aforementioned book, Redefining Healthcare, was titled “Implications for Suppliers,” and it was a virtual roadmap for this goal. I realized that we needed an inpatient platform to bring our insights to the delivery of care. It didn’t take long to discover that others were already working on this idea. When I got the opportunity to join the mission to make such patient-engaging technology the standard of care, I jumped in with both feet and bet my career on the idea.

How do you think this might change the world?

Is there any doubt that putting highly contextual information at people’s fingertips at the moment they need it has already changed the world forever? Industries have been torn down and reinvented on this foundational idea. Businesses that failed to navigate the sea change are gone forever and tech-savvy competitors now own those markets. Healthcare is a unique business in many ways, but I do not believe it will escape the new reality of our expectations for engagement. The reality of a hyper-stretched provider ecosystem demands that technology will be employed as a force multiplier. Frankly, as an economy, the US cannot sustain our healthcare cost/value equation and there is simply no way that the irresistible forces of consumer expectations and technology adoption will not intersect and change our healthcare delivery model forever.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Technology in healthcare cannot be about removing human touch, compassion, empathy, or even face-to-face interaction. The reality is technology can enable more efficient delivery of even more healthcare, albeit from a distance. This distance brings an inherent risk of less empathy; less touch; less humanity. Our technology needs to be about enabling providers to be more empathetic and more present at the moments when empathy is so desperately needed as opposed to distracting them with less crucial interactions.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

  1. Choose your mission carefully and don’t give up. Like the country song, ‘Buy Dirt’ by Jordan Davis, says, “do what you love and call it work”. The road to success is usually long and seldom easy, so the impact you see ahead will have to be important enough and personal enough to make you push through tough times. Twenty years into a medical device/pharma career, I clearly saw the urgency for patient engagement technology and chose to invest my work into making this a standard of care.
  2. Validate the market. Your primary job is to solve real customer problems and that’s best done in close collaboration with a client. We are proud of the things we’ve built on our own, but everything is better after clients help us with the tuning. Our HELLO virtual visit tool is an excellent example as client feedback massively influenced our approach and led us to develop important new use cases far beyond what we had envisioned.
  3. Find experienced and trustworthy people who have shown their commitment to your mission; hire them and trust them. You’ll need some rock stars who are all-in on the same mission (see #1 above); people who know more than you about their own vital part of the future you’re racing toward. These folks will run through walls for you, but you’ll lose their personal commitment to your path toward this future if you micromanage; if you don’t trust them. I’m lucky to have often surrounded myself with such rock stars, including the team here at eVideon.
  4. Stay humble. Success in any important innovation mission is a team sport. Your team isn’t just your direct reports, it’s everybody in the entire company. In our innovative space, the team includes our clients who choose to partner with us on our mission. There are so many moving parts in our organizational machine; failure in any one of which could send us off track. Don’t think for a moment that you’re the secret weapon that enables success, so give away all the credit and take full responsibility whenever the team comes up short.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I’m all for dreaming big, but I worry about making “change the world” your professional goal. Life is short and that becomes increasingly obvious each passing year. My advice is to invest your work in a mission that you care deeply about so that it doesn’t feel like work anymore; something that just might really change things for the better. On your journey, you’ll see a few “must-do” ideas that are obvious to you, but maybe not everybody else. And when you make it your mission to see such things through to success, if you’ve chosen wisely, you will be changing the world for the better, even in some small way. And to my mind, life’s too short to go to work any other way.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Simon Sinek: His work on leadership has inspired me. I believe that anybody has the opportunity to lead, regardless of their title. Simon’s writing has helped me to be a better leader who has hopefully inspired others to lead from wherever they are. Any mission that’s worthy of YOU will be more successful and faster wherever you sit in the organization.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

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