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Dennis Hancock of Mountain Valley MD: In Light Of The Pandemic, Here Are The 5 Things We Need To Do To Improve The US Healthcare System

An Interview With Luke Kervin

Continue to explore new healthcare technologies. Innovative healthcare technologies are being developed every day to assist medical professionals in doing their job more safely and efficiently. Whether it is a technology that allows a vaccine to travel for longer periods of time safely or delivery technology that will help provide direct absorption into the bloodstream, these new technologies move the healthcare industry forward each day and need to continue to be explored.

The COVID-19 Pandemic taught all of us many things. One of the sectors that the pandemic put a spotlight on was the healthcare industry. The pandemic showed the resilience of the US healthcare system, but it also pointed out some important areas in need of improvement.

In our interview series called “In Light Of The Pandemic, Here Are The 5 Things We Need To Do To Improve The US Healthcare System”, we are interviewing doctors, hospital administrators, nursing home administrators, and healthcare leaders who can share lessons they learned from the pandemic about how we need to improve the US Healthcare System.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure to interview Dennis Hancock.

Dennis Hancock is a senior sales and marketing executive with over 25 years of experience spanning automotive, pharmaceutical, tech, telco, retail and financial services sectors. Initially providing consulting services to Mountain Valley MD in 2018, Dennis transitioned to assume the President & CEO position in early 2019 to lead the Company’s go-public strategy and develop the business strategy to pursue broad health and wellness opportunities approach across human, animal and plant health applications. Dennis spent more than 12 years in a leadership role at one of North America’s leading performance improvement and Loyalty providers, Maritz, who works with 70% of the world’s Super 50 companies. Previously, Dennis led publicly traded ZENN Motor Company as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing. As a senior officer at ZMC, Dennis drove the establishment of ZENN — (Zero Emission, No Noise) as one of the most recognized “green tech” brands in North America. Dennis has several start-ups established, including PerformanceSPARK, an agency that works with leading organizations to identify and deliver on the key elements necessary to drive measurable performance growth, and co-founder of CrowdSeating Inc., an innovative social concert platform.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and a bit about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been fascinated by the value proposition that attracts customers to a brand and how a brand delivers on that proposition. This value exchange is essentially the foundation of how every business operates at some level. How do you attract, engage, and optimize customers through their lifecycle? How does a business organize to ensure that they have the right talent and processes to fulfill this demand better than their competition? As consumers, we go through this every single day with all sorts of products and services. My entire career has been spent leading teams who work with some of the top companies in the world on optimizing their value exchange or bringing their mission to life, if you will. So when I was given the opportunity to join Mountain Valley MD, and lead a business that could positively impact global human and animal health outcomes, it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

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

There isn’t one story that jumps out, but rather a collective of common denominators since every single thing we do throughout our career has transferable implications that you may not realize at the time. This is especially true in challenging times, when we choose to overcome adversity, pivot to a new direction, and own it versus rejecting the reality of a situation. Businesses operate in the real world. Understanding that adversity is just another data point on your journey is the most transformational leadership quality that I see clearly now at this stage of my career.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well, it wasn’t particularly funny at the time, but we were able to laugh about it after for sure. In my first job after graduating, I authored and distributed a letter to Ford Motor Company’s dealers from the president of the company, and it turns out that I had spelled his name wrong in the signature line. I was devastated, of course, but my boss was amazing at making sure that I understood that errors happen and that we must learn from them to make sure that they don’t happen twice. This is a significant principle that defines how I have reacted to people on my team making errors. The context we view errors through around fast failure directly impacts the pursuit of excellence in our work.

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

One of my favorite authors and speakers is Seth Godin, and he has a quote that I love: “The shortcut that’s sure to work, every time: take the long way.” I believe this is always something to keep in mind no matter what industry you are in or walk of life you are from. It is critical when looking at inventing and advancing innovative technologies that we move incredibly fast, but speed can never be at the expense of doing it right. Finding this balance of speed, fast failure, and doing it right is the critical sweet spot we operate in at Mountain Valley MD. I tell my team often that we can always attract or access capital, but we can never buy time. Everything we do is balanced on this principle, and we understand that the consequence of using short cuts is adding time in the long run versus doing it right the first time.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There are so many exciting things we are working on. Some examples include a technology that will allow us to store vaccines outside of the traditional cold chain system for longer periods of time. Since the vaccines will be able to travel for longer periods in very hot climates, our technology will increase access to vaccinations and help eliminate the USD $35 billion per year spoilage due to temperature logistic issues. We are also working on new oral drug and vaccine delivery technologies that provide direct absorption into the bloodstream to allow for a more precise metabolism of the medicine in dramatically less time. We are even working on husbandry and companion animal health projects that have significant global implications. Our technologies have so many benefits to help improve the global health landscape and advance our company’s mission of “more life.”

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

I think an excellent healthcare provider is anyone in the healthcare industry that genuinely cares about making a difference in the lives and health of people. This could mean the local pharmacist who takes the extra time to explain the ingredients in a medicine or supplement to a client, or this could mean the engineer who works 12-hour days trying to develop new technologies to advance the healthcare industry. And, of course, all of our doctors, nurses, and assistants who showed relentless work and dedication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic deserve special recognition. I do not believe there is one specific model of what healthcare excellence looks like; rather, it can be found in all healthcare industry workers that devote their lives to enact positive changes for others every day.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system. Some healthcare systems were at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with our readers a few examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these specific issues moving forward?

Some things that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted in the U.S. were the lack of adequate hospital capacity and shortages of essential equipment, including hospital beds, especially in highly populated metropolitan areas. The pandemic also laid bare the limitations of insurance-based models for healthcare and the dependence on the labor of underpaid healthcare workers. America’s leaders need to analyze and re-allocate money to support healthcare providers and ensure that the entire population has access to affordable medical support. Integrating a universal healthcare system would help to eliminate the gaps inherent in insurance-based models, provide patients with increased access to the same services at more cost-effective rates, and ensure that all healthcare providers would have the necessary budgets to provide these services. We also need to ensure budgets for healthcare workers such as doctors, nurses, and even hospital administration teams are adequate and reflect the essential work that they do. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic proved that healthcare professionals and providers are crucial to a functioning economy and that our leaders need to critically rethink how they have been approaching the funding of the healthcare system to date.

Of course the story was not entirely negative. Healthcare professionals were true heroes on the front lines of the crisis. The COVID vaccines are saving millions of lives. Can you share a few ways that our healthcare system really did well? If you can, please share a story or example.

Although it is true that many hospitals lacked proper funding and were therefore ill-equipped to handle the severity of COVID-19, it is also true that healthcare professionals dedicated their days, which turned into weeks and months, to doing all that they could to protect people during the pandemic. Since the previous administration left state legislators to dictate their own protocols, there was no clearly defined way on how to handle the evolving health crisis state-to-state. Healthcare providers across the nation all experienced slightly different policies depending on their location, and the fact that these providers were able to adapt and overcome to provide the best services they possibly could is inspiring. Furthermore, thousands of scientists in the healthcare field spent months developing vaccines that have now been administered to millions of people in the United States. The speed and pace at which everyone came together in the pursuit of ‘getting back to normal,’ not only for the economy but for our individual mental and physical health, was truly unprecedented. The resiliency and ability to adapt to new realities was very impressive. Something as simple as regularly scheduled doctor visits, which usually take place in clinics, was done over the phone. In hospitals, they immediately implemented policies such as masking, social distancing guidelines between patients, and reducing the allowed number of visitors for long-term patients. While these are obviously not ideal situations for anyone, this ability to adapt and forge on by doing what was necessary to get the pandemic under control truly defines the resiliency of our front-line workers.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. As a healthcare leader 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.

1. Re-allocate funding for emergency services. The COVID-19 pandemic made it evident that most healthcare providers, particularly hospitals and emergency care units, were inadequately staffed and under-prepared to handle a health crisis of this magnitude. Attention needs to be given to this moving forward, including an increased budget to provide the necessary tools and services to protect the health of our population in the future.

2. Consider universal healthcare. Another thing that COVID-19 made apparent was that getting ill can have a very negative financial toll. Many people who were affected by the global health crisis also experienced a financial crisis as a result. Even if the U.S. does not transition to universal healthcare, improvements must be made to the current insurance-based models so that when people get sick, they are not crippled by bearing the financial burden of health care costs as well.

3. Higher pay for healthcare providers. The pandemic meant that healthcare workers were stretched to the max in terms of hours and work expectations, and the dependence on the labor of underpaid healthcare workers was obvious. However, with proper budgeting to reflect the essential work that all healthcare providers do, we will not only see an increase in the quality of care, but perhaps more workers come to the healthcare field.

4. Investing in Pandemic Preparedness. The COVID-19 pandemic shone a bright light on how poorly prepared the U.S. was to respond effectively to an outbreak of this proportion. It is critical to properly fund and prioritize how a nation will respond prior to a pandemic versus scrambling after the fact when timelines make it impossible. Many scientists say that this is Mother Nature’s softball and that we can’t afford not to be ready in future pandemics that are inevitable.

5. Continue to explore new healthcare technologies. Innovative healthcare technologies are being developed every day to assist medical professionals in doing their job more safely and efficiently. Whether it is a technology that allows a vaccine to travel for longer periods of time safely or delivery technology that will help provide direct absorption into the bloodstream, these new technologies move the healthcare industry forward each day and need to continue to be explored.

Let’s zoom in on this a bit deeper. How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?

Currently, there is a discourse that healthcare workers are overworked and underpaid. We have seen in this pandemic that not investing adequately in the health care system has a direct and significant impact on our economy. We need to start realizing that investments in healthcare workers through increased training, wages, and benefits will not only attract more medical professionals into the field but will be critical to ensuring a strong U.S. economy.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?

One of the obvious ways to address the issue of physician diversity would be to ensure that medical schools are more financially accessible to students. Through tuition support and extended student loans, as an example, medical school would be more accessible to students looking to get into the healthcare industry.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician burnout?

Ensuring that healthcare workers have adequate paid vacation days per year will definitely assist in preventing burnout. It is also important to have a strong bench that creates the capacity to enable physicians to take some time off with less consequence on patient outcomes. Often healthcare advisors spend all their time helping others, leaving little time for themselves, so easy solutions like offering paid sick or mental health days and paid vacation days can really help avoid burnout.

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?

I think that my number one overriding opinion is based on the belief that investment in healthcare is a direct investment in the economic engine of the country. For too long, we have squandered dollars away from health care investments as if there is no consequence. However, we have now clearly seen the results of not investing properly. COVID-19 has shown us that saving billions of dollars in proactive healthcare investments has cost us trillions of dollars across the economy and has had a devastating impact on personal well-being and financial health. Simply put, we must re-prioritize healthcare investments at a national level as a top priority.

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. :-)

At Mountain Valley MD, our entire company is founded on the pursuit of “more life.”

Imagine if the world could have more Albert Einstein’s, Nicholai Tesla’s, Bill Nye’s, Jane Goodall’s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s, and so on. For me, it always comes down to what is the one thing that can bring more life. Is it cancer research, is it ridding the world of deadly diseases and viruses, or is it ensuring clean drinking water? Well, I believe it is all of the above and more, and we are on a mission with fellow change makers to reimagine what is possible in global human and animal health.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.

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