Health care costs are out of control and at a scale that most find baffling. Why does one night in a hospital cost $25,000? Making costs more transparent might encourage the general population to take notice on why costs are so high, and this might impact some change.
As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Matt Smith. Matt is the CEO of Speak 2 Software and an award-winning technology entrepreneur with 25 years of experience leading sales teams. Matt has executed large and complex technology implementations as a top-tier consultant at Fortune 500 companies. Matt is married with 3 children and resides in New Jersey.
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 was consulting for various companies in the health care space, specifically in hospitals. The consistent pattern that struck me was the tremendous amount of waste and inefficiency that existed despite the layers and layers of audit and oversight. And while much of the community talked about Patient Satisfaction, the patient still seemed to be getting less focus and communication than the back-end operations of the facility. I was speaking with a nurse in a maternity section about ways to improve communication with the patient, and the nurse simply told me “I do my best, but I spend all my time covering my ass, entering things into systems, and following procedures that have more to do with lawyers than patients.” Simple, common-sense solutions seemed like a fantasy, and I wanted to help change that.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was introducing our product to an Assisted Living Community. Our product works with a smart speaker, so one of our initial concerns was if Seniors could interact with a smart speaker. We sat with an 80-year-old resident and showed her how the smart speaker worked, having it tell her the weather. She nodded in approval. Then we told her that if she wanted anything from the Community, all she had to do was ask. So, she asked what was on the menu for lunch. When it told her the menu, she looked at us with amazement. She then said “Alexa, tell Regency to send someone to bring me to lunch.” It responded, “Someone is on their way to bring you to lunch.” Her eyes widened and she said, “This changes everything!” I smiled and said that we would show her all sorts of things she could ask. She said “No, you don’t understand, the other night my neighbor Bill fell late at night. He was calling out, but nobody heard him. If he had this, they could’ve come and helped him. You have to make sure Bill has one of these!” I was overcome with emotion; It was the first time that I felt a real sense of pride, realizing that we are going to help people!
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
Technology is obviously important in health care, but the economics can influence technologists to focus on big, big solutions. In the Voice space, we are seeing a lot of focus on voice recognition in clinical areas. For example, measuring if a patient is having a stroke or not by the subtle intonations of their voice. This is amazing, but probably not something we are going to be able to rely on any time soon. Our focus is to innovate in areas that are tangible and practical today. Smart speakers and voice command are technologies that can provide real-world value right now for many. Whether it be improving the patient experience or enabling Seniors to stay more engaged, the technology is already there to help many, many people. Currently, Speak2 is providing ways for people to get services, and measure those services, within healthcare facilities. Whether it be a maternity patient ordering food or a Senior in an Assisted Living Community getting a nurse to help with administering medicine, voice command provides a simple, practical user interface. How does a patient currently find out when their next medication is? Why not just have them ask? While this should not be innovative, in today’s environment, it is. This has a direct impact on Patient Satisfaction. It is simple, it is understandable, and it provides great value. Information and services simply by asking (without disrupting a busy caregiver) and measuring the behavior and service — that is four pain points in one!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Five things I wish someone told me;
1 — Health Care professionals are amazing people, but they are overworked and too busy to spend time engaging on new products. They’ve also been shown hundreds of new products that are supposed to make things better their entire careers. I wish I knew to keep things simple from the beginning.
2 — For healthcare professionals who are motivated by and actually engage with patients, the way they get paid is in no way related to how they are motivated.
3 — Successful startups in any industry should focus on being great at a few things rather than many. Find your niche and focus on what problems you are solving and how. Spreading yourselves too thin to try and cover more ground is not the answer.
4 — Adopt new technology. I recall working on company portals and intranets a long time ago when the technology became available — I worked on original eBook specification in the late 90’s, portals and mobile in the early 2000’s, creating software-as-a-service solutions in the Cloud and defining new business models around SaaS and Cloud Transformation. Each new technology was applied to the same necessary tasks. At Speak2, we believe that Voice will be the newest way of accomplishing those same core tasks and, as such, that interaction with voice in the workplace will play out similarly to how computers and then mobility was first introduced to the enterprise.
5 — Listen to your clients and users (and potential users!). You will undoubtedly uncover useful information — use cases you hadn’t anticipated or explored, what features users prioritize over others, additions or improvements that can be made.
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?
Well, this is not a positive view, but the health care system in the U.S. is financially broken. Having worked within the Payer community, Insurers are essentially like government entities. They are big, slow and unchecked. They do not seem to have much incentive to change. As a result, the rest of the system is constantly finding ways to survive within that system. Getting care is not as simple as visiting a physician and getting treatment. There is an interview process (the paperwork and discussion with the office staff), there is a barter system (calling the insurance company and arguing about coverage) and there is a cost of time and money on top of whatever fees a patient is already paying. If the product wasn’t health care, nobody would go through the pain of getting the product. We have become so accustomed to this in the U.S. that the absurdity of the system is barely noticed. We all just deal with it because we must.
While there are probably many reasons, and things are always more complex than what they appear on the surface, I think our insurance system makes it difficult to get health care, difficult to provide health care, and difficult to measure and improve health care.
Can you share 4 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
- Doctors should focus on health care, not paperwork and rules on how to get paid. Doctors must follow complex rules and are penalized if they make mistakes. E.g., a Dr. must ask a patient some of the same questions every time they visit, and if they do not, they are penalized by the Payer system. This is bound to drive bad behaviors by the people who care for us and drive up costs.
- The focus in hospitals should be on the patient, especially communication with the patient. If we treated the patient like a member of the team, it would improve patient satisfaction tremendously.
- Health care costs are out of control and at a scale that most find baffling. Why does one night in a hospital cost $25,000? Making costs more transparent might encourage the general population to take notice on why costs are so high, and this might impact some change.
- Think about your end user/who you are solving a problem for. For example, our Voice SaaS solution removes the barrier of using screen-interfaces, which benefits not only our aging population and the population of people who have any kind of temporary or permanent physical barriers, outside of hearing and speech, can now engage in settings that were not possible before but also healthcare staff members using their hands, moving a lot or wearing gloves for their (and their patients’) protection. However, adoption is key; Not on a case-by-case basis, but industry-wide.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
This is going to take a change well beyond an individual or community. This is a national crisis. This is a complex problem, obviously. Many aspects of the system must change and there needs to be more transparency — but my belief is that a solution actually requires some simple, common sense solutions, applied broadly and enforced rigorously.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better leader in the healthcare space? Can you explain why you like them?
I listen to the Ted Radio hour; I’m a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and I love to read about history. I find that any aspect of history can teach us valuable lessons. While we tend to think of historical events for their outcomes or specific cause and effect, there is usually a complex story that surrounds historical events that provides us the most value and the lessons to apply today
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/speak2software/
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!