In the midst of a pandemic, the task that many of us are focusing on is how to “return to normal.” The goal for many is the go back to the way things used to be before COVID-19 drastically changed life as we know it. Why does that have to be the case? Why can’t we use this time to get to a better version of how the world used to be? With a virus turning the conventions of our society upside down, we need to look at what we should keep and what we should change. In episode 3, Nick talks with Michael Levy, President of the Digital Health Institute for Transformation, about ways that the healthcare industry can better meet the needs of individuals rather than entire populations.
Michael Levy is a purpose-driven problem-solver, uniting, and collaborating with like-minded people to support impact and transformation in healthcare and education. Michael is a healthcare executive turned entrepreneur with a digitally-enabled mindset. Earning his BS in Neurobiology from Tulane University and his MBA from Elon University, coupled with high technology literacy from his experience at Apple at the turn of the century, he is on a path to unite culture, process, people, and technology to create a new operating system for the 21st century.
That is why Michael co-founded Bluedoor and the Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT). In partnership, Bluedoor and DHIT serve as the vehicles to Michael's vision and the operating entities to drive impact and transformation into communities.
"Passion is not always a viable business plan. You have to think about whether or not your passion can be turned into profit. Instead, think about purpose. When you use the purpose behind what you're doing to drive you, the hard days become easier because you know what you're working towards."
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So why don't we start by you giving your elevator pitch of who you are and what you're working on.
So you know I appreciate the opportunity to chat and cut it up with you Nick. I'm always ready for a convo with you, as we naturally Jam to the same vibe, At the end of the day we get up and sense the world a little bit differently than most in respects to the way the world should look like, the way the world could look like, and what our role is in shaping reality. At the end of the day, there's no time to wait for it, there's no way to sit around and talk about it – it's about moving forward knowing that the future that can be should be, and what isn’t allowing that to happen. So I get up every morning shooting for the stars and knowing that every day we get closer to reaching it. Without good friends and good Partnerships, it would take a hell of a lot of work to get there
So what door do you think has been cracked open because of COVID-19 that wasn't there before?
I think the cultural progression has been astronomical as it relates to a society that was wired a certain way to have a certain level of complacency and comfort regarding what the system provides for us, whether that be going to an office to have to do work, separating home and work, looking at the way we shop, the way we consume, or the way we engage. Now all of that is blown up. Our conventions no longer exist and they're yet to be formed. So I consider this a wide-open window and an open door, and everything is on the table. If you're not looking at how to take advantage and how to use this as an opportunity you're not seeing this as the wide-open door that I'm seeing it.
Yeah, I totally cosign on that, because when I started smashing boxes, it was all about smashing the Box. But the point is that there is no box. There's no constraint. All we're seeing are constraints falling down. At the end of the day regarding healthcare, we have to do what we can to improve population health, and we have to all be okay with the fact that this might not be great for one individual or another or their interests, and we have to build tools that make us more ready for situations like this in the future.
I think to that point what we're seeing is a deeper level of understanding that we're connected, and the virality and the ease of spread of COVID have really amplified the community narrative and the network narrative that humans actually live and Survive by. Take for instance a smoker who is making individual decisions to smoke, or an eater, or an individual who does exercise – these are all attributes of cages. Historically we have let the onus on the individual by the individual's onus. What we're going to see is a more connected society that builds support systems for the aggregate versus the individual. As it relates to just what you see when you're walking down the street, how many neighbors do you see that you never saw before? How many people do you have just in your little circle that is caring just a little bit more about each other? We are looking at each other a little bit more intentionally. I do see population health, situational health, and all Health improving. If we're in this world together, let's take care of each other. Let us survive and live together. In this framework. It can't be an “I” world anymore, It's got to be a “we” world.
So tell me the bird's eye view of what DHIT is doing, and how you guys are looking to make an impact.
DHIT is an organization that was formed a number of years ago built on my unwavering intent to close the gap between those who have and those who don't have. It's centered around acknowledging the fact that there's this massive disconnect between the problems in our communities among both the people who are privileged and those in underdeveloped and impoverished communities, where there is no indication of the problem from the ground up. Leadership in insurance doesn't understand the mental, social, and environmental aspects of people's lives. The factors that really determine our lives from a healthcare standpoint. DHIT is about exposing the truth and pains that really affect us. So I'm looking into the possibility of an insurance package that is created by you, Nick. You know exactly what you could do to benefit the wellness of your own health, whether it be going to the gym, having more time with your family, or installing an AC unit if you don't have air conditioning and you're drenched in the heat all day. Whatever that is, your insurance package should be framed around you as an individual and your intended ideals to be your best self. That's not the current system. The current system is that I'm going to create a benefits package that assesses your risk and financial models that spread as a kind of sickness that we deal with as a society across everybody, whether it's health or financial.
Is employer-based Healthcare the main culprit or is it one culprit? I mean I have a lot of white-collar workers getting Healthcare, and I mean, damn, they probably have the resources to go search for their own stuff.
I mean, the employer on average spends $1,200 a month on their employees’ health package. The average employee sees the doctor twice a year. So that on average is about 5 to 6 thousand dollars on an appointment for the employer. What value is that? So if you rewrite the equation and say instead of spending $1200 a month to an insurance provider for a package that's not being used by the employee, save 25 / 50% of that and pass it down to the individual to say “spend it on the things that make you happy. Spend it on the things that make you healthy. Spend it on the things that you know will drive Wellness.” There are things about health and wellness that are much deeper than just access to care, such as access to a massage therapist, the difference between happiness and sadness, and the difference between confidence and security vs. insecurity.
What are you thinking regarding solving Healthcare inequality right now?
I think at the end of the day I'm a big believer in the replay system. You know, I look at professional athletes and think of, outside of the fact that they have a skill, what has been a constant from the moment that they started training was the ability to evaluate themselves on film. The ability to evaluate objective data on how they're doing to reach their goals. Take for instance a football player who plays on Sunday. What's the first thing they do on Monday? Do they go out and play a game? No. They go and study film to see exactly what they did wrong, what they can do to do better, and they spend all week trying to fix those problems. So what's missing for us as a society is a replay system. Where are the data streams that can be exposed to me that on a weekly and daily basis I say “well shit, I can do a little bit better there or that's something to be modified, or that's doable.” These are the things that can change your life. It's about aggravating all the data about yourself and bringing it into a replay system. This allows you to get paid yourself on the ability to improve yourself, just like a professional athlete.
How do you as one organization, one person, start to move the needle on something as big as perverse incentive models and a system with a lot of participants?
I think you go back to that wide-open door that just popped up with the pandemic and ask yourself, “How can we use this as the driver to employee and infrastructure, and the rewiring of incentives into infrastructure like this?” This pandemic really mirrors in a larger sense our health inequities and our health discrepancies prior to the pandemic. So with all this funding and all these cultural changes going on, there's a real opportunity to bring to the ecosystem a simulation of themselves, a simulation of their community, where together and individually they can say, “look: here's the data that is and here are the things that you can pull to modify your well-being.” What we don't have right now is a system like that. So it's the job of people like you and me, Nick, where we can actually approach these problems and try to solve them.
How would an incentive model work to really get at the healthcare and health inequality piece?
I think again it's about riding the wave of transformation. Right now we're sitting right in the center of a transformation from model-based care to value-based care. The only way you can do that is by understanding the patient as a consumer, and the only way you can do that is understanding the data from the consumer themselves of what motivates them and what incentivizes them. It's about understanding that data matters now more than ever in trying to understand an ecosystem. Only a small percentage of the data in the Healthcare System right now actually accounts for the actual things that drive our health.
What's your why? What's driving this force that's causing you to innovate?
At the end of the day, I’ve felt so much pain, I've seen so much wrong, and I know I have so much more than so many other people. I can't live with myself knowing that I've spent a day not trying to solve these inequities. Innovation transformation is the only way we can solve this. It's not doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, it's not incremental improvement, it's a completely different system. Working to develop that system is the only way that I can sleep at night with a smile on my face or die and feel like I've left it all on the playing field.