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Navin Gupta Of iN2L + LifeLoop On 5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System

October 03, 2022Jake Frankel

Link to original story by Jake Frankel:

We need to shift to whole person care, to ensure we are cognitively and socially taking care of individuals as well. If we do that, we can slow down the progression of illnesses that might be forming early, we can intervene at earlier stages and improve outcomes at scale.

Asa part of our interview series called “5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System”, I had the pleasure to interview Navin Gupta.

Navin Gupta is Chief Executive Officer of iN2L + LifeLoop. Navin joins iN2L + LifeLoop with more than two decades of experience in different domains, including healthcare, security, and telecommunication. His expertise includes an interdisciplinary background in business and technology. Navin holds an MBA from the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University, a Master’s Degree in Information Systems from Florida State University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Bangalore University in India*.***

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 story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Mycareer has been an evolution and discovery of my passions. While my career did not begin in healthcare, healthcare has certainly always been part of my DNA. My family has a pharmaceutical distribution business in India — this month marks its 50th year. Since childhood I was exposed to discussions around healthcare and the healing power of medicine. It left a big impression on me, and I knew I always wanted to be part of an industry that helps humans flourish, like my family has done for decades.

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

I think the surprising trajectory of my career is probably the most interesting story I can share. I started out in the Telecommunications sector, a far cry from healthcare — or so it seemed at the time. There, I witnessed the transformational capability of technology and its ability to meaningfully impact humans at scale. At Siemens, I watched the evolution of DSL to fiber optics and saw how something so simple as speedy connectivity could deliver so much good to so many people.

Growing up surrounded by healthcare professionals, I knew I wanted to be in that vertical. So I transitioned to Philips Healthcare, where I got to see firsthand how technology can dramatically improve the experience and delivery of healthcare. I helped advance applications of remote monitoring within critical care settings, including ICUs, and I saw lifesaving use cases. Knowing that technology can make life or death connections has inspired me to this day.

Now in senior living, I am granted an amazing opportunity to continue my mission of transforming the daily experience of residents, staff, and community life through powerfully connective technology. At iN2L + LifeLoop, we are on a mission to holistically advance the experience of aging — both for residents by building connections and sparking joy — and for staff by supporting workflows and creating efficiencies in the workplace, where burnout is rife.

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?

The funniest mistake I made was in my early days at Siemens. It was common then to have what you call a “war room,” so when something goes wrong with a client, all the executives meet in this room to resolve it. The first time I was pulled in, we were looking at this huge file of subscriber records and I was asked to make a modification to one record.

It was intense pressure in that room, and I was very nervous. Instead of using the correct command, which would have been “MR,” I plugged in “DR,” and proof of the record was gone. I made a huge error under pressure in front of my boss and all of leadership. In those days, there was no “Control-Z.”

After a few beats, one of the senior engineers stood up and he said: “It’s okay. I got you. We’ll restore the database. You’ll do it all over again, just correctly this time.” Everyone chuckled a little in relief. I learned such a valuable lesson in that moment, of responding to human error with grace and kindness. Today, I believe we call that “psychological safety” — that knowing if you make a mistake, you will not be punished for it. It doesn’t mean the bar is lowered, it doesn’t mean standards are low — there is still excellence in all we do. It just allows everyone room to be human, learn, and grow. So I will always remember that engineer and his kindness of standing up for me, holding my hand at that moment that could have otherwise been quite catastrophic for me. Now it’s funny, it really is.

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

“To whom much is given, much is required.” This line is my fuel. It’s all about pursuing the general uplifiting of the quality of life for those around you, and the community as a whole. It motivates me to dedicate time as well to giving back, volunteering my time for non-profit organizations in the community or worldwide.

I feel it acutely living here in the Western world — we have a lot of resources, a lot of different things available to us. So the bar for what we can accomplish and how we can uplift others should be higher as well.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

Folks in healthcare are entirely focused on a mission. I saw a news story about a doctor in India. He was stuck in an impossible traffic jam, but moments were ticking down and he had a surgery to do. So he just got out of his car, left it there, and he darted through traffic to get there. He ran a couple of kilometers straight to the hospital to do the surgery, because he couldn’t allow himself to miss it. There is a certain selflessness about excellent healthcare providers. We saw that amplified to a heroic degree throughout the pandemic, especially in the senior living space. The providers that work in these communities are so dedicated to assisting and bettering the process of aging for each of their residents.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

I read a lot of books. They have shaped my thinking around the intersection of healthcare, technology, and innovation. Within senior care, I’m really excited to apply some of these principles to help impact health outcomes at scale. A few of my favorites include:

  • “High Output Management” by Andrew Grove is an essential read for managers, a true resource on inspirational leadership and motivating teams.
  • “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott has deeply shaped my leadership principles; it’s an empathetic approach to leadership that has helped me strike a balance between caring about my team while focusing on growth.
  • “Playing to Win” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin has influenced my strategic thinking. I want to position my organizations for long-term, sustainable success.
  • “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore is an excellent guide on product development and cutting-edge innovation.

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

Yes, we are just about ready to announce something big here at iN2L + LifeLoop!

We have built the senior living industry’s first enterprise solution that combines a resident and family engagement portal with unparalleled workflow automations. We’re positioned to empower the entire community, from residents and loved ones, to caretakers, administrative and operational staff, and providers, too. The platform will be entirely hardware agnostic, which frees individuals and communities to leverage our features and streamlined capabilities in a myriad of new ways.

Our goal is to provide an experience that empowers all of these caring people to focus on the higher order tasks that truly make a difference, to practice their craft in ways that are the most meaningful to them. We know this looks differently to different people, so we wanted to create a comprehensive solution that is agile enough to support all of these stakeholders in powerful ways.

Today, iN2L + LifeLoop touches hundreds of thousands of lives through our platform — but we have aspirations to positively impact millions of lives. I believe this new path we are on will be a huge accelerant to that goal. We want to leverage our technology to help as many people as possible.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now 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?

Unfortunately, we don’t need need charts and graphs to tell us that the system here is broken — we feel it every time we engage with the healthcare system. At a 10,000 foot view, we know our system is highly fragmented, it’s broken at its core.

One reason is the complete lack of coordinated care transition. If an individual visits urgent care, then schedules a follow-up with their primary care provider, is then routed to a specialist, and finally admitted to a hospital, the clinical records do not follow that patient from point to point along his or her journey. The whole time that individual is trying to locate print-outs from one place, to share with another. Labs, records, repetitive forms, insurance claims, medications… they are all siloed in different places. How is this possible for the leading economic nation? There are still faxes flying around.

Another reason is the episodic nature of our healthcare system, which is attached to the outdated fee-for-service model. Every single visit or incident is associated with a related claim and a reimbursement. So it quickly becomes very inefficient and very expensive to treat individuals in this way. We have to find ways to treat individuals in lower cost settings and connect the dots so that lifestyle and habit changes are woven in for more holistic care, which will improve outcomes in the long run and help reduce costly emergency care episodes.

The third reason is sort of the effect of the first two — it’s the national healthcare spend, which we can never balance. If you go back to 1970, the cost of healthcare was only 5% of the national budget. But four years ago, it was 28%, and it’s only expected to continue growing. Our aging population, the majority of individuals who have at least one chronic condition, and pandemic-related delays in care are all contributing to these very high, very intense care needs we’re seeing right now that are further exacerbating this issue. We need to find a new approach to strike a better balance on cost, quality, and equity of access to healthcare.

As 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. 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?

To begin, I’d shift our model from rehabilitative care to preventative care. Rather than waiting for people to fall sick, we should invest in measures that keep them healthier for longer. Reward people for wellness habits, for exercise, medication adherence, and healthy eating and sleeping.

Secondly, we need to shift to whole person care, to ensure we are cognitively and socially taking care of individuals as well. If we do that, we can slow down the progression of illnesses that might be forming early, we can intervene at earlier stages and improve outcomes at scale.

The third would be ensuring healthcare equity in our country. For instance, the same quality of care observed in acute environments does not follow through to the post-acute space. We see time and again that certain demographics consistently fall through the cracks following discharge — we know we need to establish standards for continuity of care once a patient leaves the hospital or office. We need to ensure we’re following up with people and helping them stay on their healthcare journeys, we need to close these gaps to care, whether they’re caused by insufficient nutrition, lack of transport, gaps in education, or anyting else. I’m getting at the social determinants of health (SDoH) — we know that these external factors have an outsized impact on individuals’ longterm health and well-being, so if we want to move the needle on outcomes, we have to begin here.

The fourth would be acuity of care. We have options now and new modalities of healthcare delivery, so we no longer have to only disseminate care at high-cost settings, like emergency rooms or the hospital. We can set up centers for seniors right in their communities, or at skilled nursing facilities and keep them out of the hospitals for longer. We can drive more care to home and community settings, which would be more efficient and cost effective.

Lastly, for the fifth change, I would hearken back to the topic of fragmentation. At the core, it’s an interoperability issue. We need to return to the conversation around “meaningful use” and ensure that not only can EHRs communicate with one another, but that data formats are seamlessly exchangeable, from high-level, high-cost settings to individual access and use. Initially, the government provided money for healthcare stakeholders. I think it would be great if we could earmark budget for a next generation approach to this conversation, so that we can truly drive it home, and unleash the power of all this information we are collecting so we can apply it to care decisions in real-time settings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system, leaving some hospital systems at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with us examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these issues moving forward?

It will come as no surprise to anyone within our industry that the biggest area of struggle we’re still facing today is with healthcare worker shortages, especially within senior living. I saw a report that said about half of US nurses are reporting they are likely to reconsider a profession that is non-patient facing and out of the clinical setting. We’re seeing stories in the news weekly: unprecedented levels of burnout, nursing strikes, patients languishing in emergency waiting rooms. We should be appreciating our care teams more than ever and reinvesting back in their satisfaction and success.

I’ve been seeing a few interesting ideas floated around. On one hand, some thought leaders are proposing we adjust our immigration laws so that we have access to more help. There is also the issue of minimum wage laws and ensuring that these caretakers are being fairly compensated for the selfless and invaluable services they provide.

Also, the thin margins that our health systems are now operating on. There are more costs to incur now than ever before: COVID infection control, increasing raw material and supply chain costs, inflations, rising cost of labor and hourly wages of temporary travel nurses and care staff. Reimbursement is not keeping up with this rise in costs and so we’re seeing economic hardship strike these institutions.

Thirdly, the pressure to shift from the fee-for-service to fee-for-value, and the embrace of this broader risk-based model is emerging across healthcare and in senior living too. Now providers are struggling to find value, to drive these outcome changes while they’re facing labor shortages and economic constraints, and it’s a very hard environment to succeed in.

Shifting to senior living, to our industry, specifically — we saw over the pandemic people becoming genuinely afraid of senior living in a way that wasn’t there before. People wound up staying home longer than they would otherwise have, and that is still driving occupancy issues for the communities we serve. Now the landscape is shifting entirely in recovery, we’re working to embrace transparency and connectivity. Communities are proactively sharing methods they use to keep their residents safe, happy, and healthy, so the net is a positive one. The industry had to evolve and move on to a new level, to think about holistic care in a new way.

How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?

I think we have to truly work on ourselves as an industry. We are seeing fewer young people choosing to elect healthcare as their degree because there are a lot of sacrifices involved. We need to shift the value proposition, we need to help remind everyone that this is a very rewarding field — not only financially, but also emotionally gratifying.

We can continue to accelerate our adoption of technology to make physicians’ lives easier on the day to day. Let’s embrace decision support, care coordination, automated form fills and workflows, etc. We can free our physicians up so they can spend more time operating at the top of their licenses, doing the work that is most fulfilling and helpful, and help return the profession to its original feel and intent.

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

We must do this, it’s so important. We know that patients react differently when their caretakers look and sound like them, so we need representation within healthcare. We need to invest early on education and outreach, we need to promote the profession more broadly and open up paths to medical and higher degrees at an early age. We need to conduct self-evaluations on implicit racism and biases in healthcare, so that we as an industry can begin to reframe our conversations from the top-down. This will trickle into hiring practices, into recruitment, and into ensuring that everyone feels comfortable both seeking healthcare — and providing it.

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

I touched on it a bit above, but I think we can dual path it. On one hand, let’s upskill our clinical staff. Let’s reinvest in their education, their well-being, and their skillset so they feel rewarded and like they’re growing, and on the flipside, our teams will become more capable and grow their abilities. It’s a win-win.

Then, every technology vendor we invest in should be dedicated to improving workflows, to supporting the true day-to-day processes of physician and nurse personas, so that we can truly improve their workday experiences.

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. :-)

I would remind everyone that no one ever won a game by standing on the sidelines. So I would send out a rally cry: “Go! Get in the game and make a difference!”

I would say that even one simple act of commitment to your community can be transformational and help drive overall human flourishing. If everyone is able to dedicate him or herself to one social good — whether it be healthcare, inequality, food or economic security, loneliness, education access, personal safety — we will begin to see a marked improvement. I would encourage everyone to contribute to one social mission or another, there is no selfless act to small. Every action makes an impact in the grand scheme.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am always sharing updates, videos, and publishing articles on LinkedIn. I’d invite everyone to come check out my page:

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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Designed with you in mind, 'In The Loop’ is a blog offering industry insights, news, and ideas straight to your inbox. Each month we will share industry topics and provide tips on best practices for connecting with families, engaging with residents and streamlining operations.