The Future of Healthcare: “We need to fix the culture of excessive testing” with Author Albert Ho

Culture of Excessive Testing — Americans believe that a CT or MRI is the best way to diagnose a disease. This is simply not always the case, and ties into one of my proposed changes Choosing Wisely. Just because a test does not cost anything to the patient if covered, a culture of testing and retesting is a burden in terms of costs as well as the systems that provide testing.

As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Albert Ho, author of the upcoming book “Checkmate: How to Win the Sales Game in Healthcare”. Albert has two decades of experience in the Canadian healthcare system. He has worked in numerous roles including a Registered Nurse, Care Coordinator and a Project Manager. He has also owned and operated a multimillion dollar medical device business treating patients with CPAP therapy.


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 learned my passion for healthcare from my mother who is a retired family physician. Growing up, around the dinner table we talked about the problems that her patients faced. From the young teenager who had gotten pregnant, to a young man who was in a car accident and experience back pain. I was amazed that my mom was able to impact patients every day through her medical practice. I am still impressed that my mom a first generation immigrant came to Canada in 1975. She opened two offices and operated these practices working 6 days a week for over 35 years. Her tireless dedication helped me to choose a career in healthcare, and this has opened up a world of possibilities for me.

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

One of the most interesting things that happened was when one of our equipment vendors Resmed rolled out MyAir in 2014. It is a wireless system to gather data from patients. The previous way to collect patient compliance was by putting an SD card from the CPAP machine into a laptop. With MyAir I could suddenly see at a glance all of my patients and a summary of their usage by logging into a website. This dramatically changed my business and has since become an industry standard. To relate this to patients, I could now see how well they used CPAP therapy the night before. I could review the system and then make a telephone call to that patient and ask “Mr Jones, I can see that there were 3 interruptions last night. Can you describe what happened?”

Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field? (2–3 sentences)

Having worked in various roles in the healthcare system, I’m the only keynote speaker in Canada that works exclusively with healthcare sales professionals. The reason why I chose to work with this target population, is because I believe that if these innovators can communicate the benefits and features of a new product or service, it will bring about massive change. I am connected with Canadian healthcare leaders across Canada through an organization called the Canadian College of Healthcare Leaders.

What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As a sales consultant, I get to work with innovative companies that are making dramatic improvements to the health system. One of my clients is Jenise Lee from PurPicks (https://www.purpicks.com). It’s like the Expedia for skincare and makeup products. She founded the CertClean certification, which certifies that skincare products are safe, organic with no carcinogens. I would urge all of your readers to seek products with this certification as mainstream products do not meet the CertClean certification standard as of yet.

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?

One of my life goals is to make the healthcare system better, spreading the ideas and practices that work and stopping the ideas that do not work. One of the big ideas that we are creating in Canada is a National Pharmacare Plan. The goal is to cover all Canadians with a minimum standard to easily access basic medications.

The pain point that this solves is access to basic medications. Canadians pay some of the highest drug costs, and this program if implemented aims to reduce this burden.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m currently working a project called eReferral for a 3 hospital system in Brampton, Ontario. This is creating an electronic referral system that make it faster and easier for physicians to send referrals. The goal is to have a system that only takes 1 minute to complete a referral to the 90 clinics and services within the organization.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. That healthcare moves so slow — Some projects take months to years to deploy. I wished that healthcare moved faster. Some of the reasons for this can be related to culture within healthcare organizations.
  2. That shift work would turn my life upside down — Working alternating day shifts and night shifts for 4 years was one of the most difficult aspects of being a Registered Nurse. My shift pattern was day, day, night, night. I felt like a zombie working night shifts, as the entire city would be sleeping and I would be working.
  3. To stop caring about what other people think — For a long time, I hesitated to tell people that I was a male nurse. It didn’t help that mainstream media ridiculed male nurses such in the movie Meet the Fockers (2004).
  4. To talk to people that are different than myself — I used to only talk to and be friends with people that were in the same profession or held the same values as myself. This really limited my world of ideas. By connecting with people that are different, I now learn about new ideas and points of view every day.
  5. To take bigger risks — I wish that I had taken bigger risks in my career and personal life. My parents had fairly stable jobs. I wish that I had a written a book earlier in my life so that I could be impacting my readers earlier.

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?

As an expert on the Canadian healthcare system, I get to provide a unique view into the US healthcare system. I know that for several years the US system was becoming more and more similar to the Canadian healthcare system.

A. Culture of prescribing — American patients believe that a pill can cure any symptom. By carefully choosing which medications to take, could reduce medication costs. Just because your insurance covers the cost of the medication, doesn’t mean that you have to take the medication. Over time, excess medications are a burden on costs as well chronic usage of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance.

B. Culture of Excessive Testing — Americans believe that a CT or MRI is the best way to diagnose a disease. This is simply not always the case, and ties into one of my proposed changes Choosing Wisely. Just because a test does not cost anything to the patient if covered, a culture of testing and retesting is a burden in terms of costs as well as the systems that provide testing.

C. Private healthcare — While this may sounds like a dramatic step to take, it is the system that allows services to be sold to the highest bidder. Healthcare resources are scarce and should be allocated based on need, not ability to pay.

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.

A. Restoring Obama care — Obamacare is a key piece of legislation that helped American that did not have health insurance. Having health insurance is needed to ensure citizens get the basic care that is needed.

B. Widespread discussion around Choosing Wisely (https://www.choosingwisely.org/) This is an international movement to reduce unnecessary tests. This initiative provides guidelines for Physicians and patients.

C. Using telemedicine — Telemedicine is using video technology for patient appointments, patients and providers need to start using these type of system. Patients sometimes commute for hours just for short 15 min appointments that can be completed using telemedicine.

D. Stricter Vaccination — Vaccine hesitation has been declared a priority by the World Health Organization. Americans are literally getting sick from diseases that were previously eradicated such as Measles.

https://www.who.int/immunization/programmes_systems/vaccine_hesitancy/en/

E. Decriminalization of marijuana — Canada legalized marijuana for recreational use in Oct 2018. The United States could follow our lead and ensure the entire United States decriminalized this drug.

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?

Individuals — Start educating ourselves about the real solutions that will help Americans for the future. In this day and age, vaccine hesitancy should not be a problem and yet it is the biggest problem facing the world today.

Communities — Lobby the federal government to restore Obamacare, this single piece of legislation will benefit the greatest number of Americans.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

  • Twitter @checkmatebook1
  • Instagram @checkmatebook

I am offering a free downloadable copy of my upcoming book “Checkmate: How to Win the Sales Game in Healthcare” to your readers when my book is published in June 2019 www.healthcareheroes.co

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!