DistilNFO had an opportunity to interview Bruce Lieberthal, Chief Innovation Officer of Henry Schein Inc,.
1. To start with, tell us about yourself, your career journey so far to being the Chief Innovation Officer at Henry Schein. What are the key traits that made you successful in your roles?
Bruce Lieberthal: I started my professional career in 1984 as a general dentist in Boston after graduating SUNY Buffalo in 1983 and doing a 1-year residency. Concurrent with starting my practice, I became involved in writing practice management software for dental practices. At that time, the computer industry was very new; that part of it devoted to healthcare was in its infancy. There was almost nowhere to go to learn programming skills, outside of a college setting, so I essentially had to teach myself.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s I built my software and small company. In 1998-99, two concurrent events changed the direction of my career: my company was acquired by Discus Dental and we began working with the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) as their endorsed software, EndoVision. I stayed at Discus Dental until 2007 and during that time ran their technology division, continued to build our Endo product, an Enterprise offering (DentalVision Enterprise), our General Practitioners product (DentalVision Professional) and a brand-new product, OMSVision, which remains the endorsed offering of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS).
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In 2007, the software group of Discus Dental was acquired by Henry Schein, reporting to its North American dental technology division, Henry Schein Practice Solutions. I managed their product management and development teams from 2007-2009, including all product groups, including Dentrix, Easy Dental, Dentrix Enterprise, our electronic services, our lab software and communications (Labnet, DDX) and the products from Discus that I wrote.
In 2009, I spent time launching Henry Schein’s digital dentistry team, ConnectDental, and working on other emerging technologies and business development opportunities at the company.
Starting in 2011 and extending through much of 2015, I was the General Manager of our medical software business, MicroMD.
Then, in mid-2015, Henry Schein launched its Global Innovation Center, which I have been privileged to lead ever since.
Throughout my career, having a background in clinical dentistry and a deep background in technology has enabled me to have a fairly unique perspective and marry the two together producing results that truly help those in our profession leverage technology and put it to practical use.
2. Tell us about Henry Schein and the global innovation center you run. What is the most exciting thing you and your team are working on?
Bruce Lieberthal: Henry Schein’s Global Innovation Center (GIC) is charged with the mission of harnessing the promise of healthcare’s future to benefit our customers and company. The many business units at Henry Schein are involved mostly with the distribution of 3rd-party products that are mature, well-tested, market-ready. The company has an excellent track record of delivering great solutions, customer service and financial results. With the launch of the GIC, in 2015, we added capability on how to capture what’s coming, but not yet ready, working with brilliant, mostly early-stage, entrepreneurs. Working with early stage solutions and companies is very different; our team takes on the tasks to transform innovation into commercialized products and solutions. To oversimplify, the GIC bridges the gap between the often raw, unstructured way entrepreneurs present to us and how our distribution teams need these solutions to be able to sell and support them at scale. We work through a set of structured “gates” with these young companies, mentoring them in all aspects of building their products, testing them, getting their companies ready to be a good supplier partner for us and a wide range of other activities required to transform them and their solutions to marketable products.
Additionally, the GIC has its own “skunk works” software development team, called Henry’s Garage, which works on innovative software solutions that are then commercialized by one or more of our distribution and technology business units.
The GIC works on a wide range of projects; our criteria for taking on a solution is that it be innovative, fits our market space and one or more of our divisions will commit to selling it. More specifically, our projects cover all three Henry Schein verticals (medical, dental and animal health) and involve projects that are aimed at solutions to improve the supply chain, our customers’ practices and clinical breakthroughs.
3. Health care industry is in transition, there is a lot of uncertainty due to change in administration. What is your advice to health care executives during these times of change?
Bruce Lieberthal: Healthcare is complex and changing more rapidly than ever. The key is to focus on solving real problems in tune with the major trends: better outcomes, washing cost/waste out of the system, and improving access. Healthcare executives that are able to leverage innovative technologies and solutions effectively are in the best position to win.
4. Technology is impacting every aspect of Health care, what are the top technologies that you think will have the most impact on the industry and why?
Bruce Lieberthal: Expanding on the above point, technology breakthroughs are driving opportunities to reach all three of the goals. In my opinion, the key technologies that are being harnessed to produce exciting results include:
- The Medical Internet of Things – combining sensor-based, miniaturized devices, software, and the Internet to monitor patients in real time and raise alerts to healthcare professionals whenever a patient’s condition is heading in the wrong direction. Since about 80¢ of every healthcare dollar goes to treating the chronically ill and driving that expense are costly acute episodes suffered by these patients, IoT promises to:
- Improve outcomes and compliance
- Reduce mortality and morbidity rates
- Lower cost:
- Enable patients to spend more time in low-cost home-based settings
- Replace expensive and large pieces of equipment with low-cost and miniaturized sensors and software
- Genomics and Proteomics: This enormously exciting and rapidly expanding field can lead to profound improvements in outcomes by capturing disease very early while it is still curable. Achieving this will radically lower cost as these tests tend to be inexpensive and hold the promise of patients having to suffer through expensive, long-term and debilitating courses in chemotherapy, surgery, etc. This field is also beginning to yield therapies to effective immunotherapies to successfully treat cancers heretofore resistant to intervention.
- 3D Imaging: Imaging technology associated with smart software algorithms are starting to deliver more automated diagnostic tools that profoundly help healthcare professionals see what they never were able to before, capturing disease more precisely and earlier.
- Telemedicine: The ability to bring doctors and patients together, albeit remotely, connected to IoT sensors near the patient that report to and are controlled by the doctor is leading to reductions in cost, improved access and better outcomes.
- Big Data: New capabilities in data are delivering insights leading to new and more targeted therapies and helping to wash cost out of the healthcare system
- Blockchain: This was once only thought of as the enabling technology for cryptocurrency (Bitcoin). Today, it is being rapidly adopted as it holds the best promise of enabling true interoperability of healthcare data while virtually reducing or eliminating the risk of data breach or tampering.
- Customized Manufacturing – 3D Printing (Additive), Milling (Subtractive), CAD/CAM Software: The promise of this technology is almost unmeasurable. Rapid improvements in printing and milling technologies and materials are enabling the movement of the supply chain closer to the patient, radically reducing manufacturing cost and enabling the creation of prostheses, devices and replacement body parts accurately, easily, and on-demand. Today, dentistry is the biggest consumer of 3D printing of any industry.
5. The amount of data generated in healthcare is increasing exponentially, what is the best way for health care companies to address data complexities to enable business outcomes?
Bruce Lieberthal: The amount of healthcare data being generated today is exploding; by 2020 worldwide healthcare data will approach 2,000 exabytes – that is 2 trillion gigabytes; the number looks like this: 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Talk about Big Data! The increases in computational power, communications bandwidth, enormous increases in storage capacity and miniaturization and super-smart software algorithms have created the infrastructure enabling this. But data is useless unless harnessed appropriately. Additionally, the more healthcare data that is stored and communicated in the cloud, the more potential there is for that data to be vulnerable. Many of the promises of data have to do with using The key topics, all interrelated, associated with data include:
• Electronic Health Records: EHRs are a critical advance, taking the data associated with all of us previously stored on paper and transforming them into discrete data elements
• Interoperability: One challenge that needs to be solved is creating enough standardization and appropriate middleware to enable discrete data to be shared between disparate systems
• Data Analytics: This is the ability to use advanced algorithms to enable great reams of data to be aggregated and grouped to tease out meaning.
• Accelerated Research – Data and software algorithms enable simulations, testing, correlations and super-fast crunching of enormous amounts of information
• Clinical Decision Support – this is the use of Big Data systems, like IBM Watson® that assist doctors in coming to faster, more accurate diagnoses and assisting them to more quickly zero in on therapeutic approaches that work better.
• Early Diagnostics + Targeted Therapies + Outcomes – Related to the above, the ability to look at and sift through huge amounts of genomic, image, textual and other data is leading to our ability to diagnose serious disease much earlier – when it can actually lead to a cure – and targeted, customized therapeutic approaches.
6. Innovation is the key to transforming the health care industry. How do you source, select and execute on ideas at Henry Schein? How can health care professional drive innovation in their organizations? & What are the top challenges you face in your role as chief innovation officer? How do you address these challenges?
Bruce Lieberthal: How our innovation team sources and prioritizes what we look at and act on is a key part of how we operate. We receive inbound requests from many, many entrepreneurs each week. Additionally, we have our own ideas and a brilliant software development team to build innovative solutions. The key for us is that anything we work on has to fit our markets and must be selected by one or more of our business units for eventual commercialization. The GIC has a very well-organized set of process gates it goes through with solution providers to present opportunities to our divisions, prioritize based on their feedback and then continuously test and refine our work. But, unless one or more of our divisions is willing to sell the solution, we do not pursue.
The interesting challenge here is that the opportunities the GIC looks at are typically not market-ready. They are usually brought to us by young companies who have products that are not yet fully developed, and may fall short from an IP, regulatory, manufacturing, operational and capitalization point of view. When we approach our business units, then, we are asking them to tell us if they will sell a solution that isn’t yet mature from a company that is not ready to scale and isn’t sufficiently organized to work with our sales and distribution systems.
The GIC is interested in innovative solutions in all 3 of our vertical markets (Medical, Dental and Animal Health) in three areas:
• Practice Management: These are technology and non-technology solutions that help our customers run their businesses better and often involve products and services that expand the utility of our own practice management and medical records software.
• Clinical: This involves a wide array of solutions that lead to new therapies, diagnostics, imaging, clinical decision support, the use of healthcare IoT (Internet of Things), etc.
• Supply Chain: These opportunities lead to enabling our customers to be able to better work with us or may be new technologies and systems that help Henry Schein run its vast supply chain better.
7. Henry Schein has operations in over 32 countries, can you comment on trends and challenges in global markets?
Bruce Lieberthal: Serving the global office-based dental, animal health and medical markets and having operations in 32 countries, we appreciate the unique cultural and market differences between these distinct segments. However, we also are in the unique position to see the great similarities between these various segments. All share a desire to operate more efficient practices so they can focus on providing the best possible care to their patients. And that is what Henry Schein provides to our customers – a network of technology-driven solutions supported by our experts that can help our customers achieve their unique practice goals.
8. You are a very successful executive, what can others learn from the way you manage your time and how you set priorities on your tasks for yourself and your team?
Bruce Lieberthal: Henry Schein offers a comprehensive selection of products and services, including value-added solutions for operating efficient practices and delivering high-quality care. Henry Schein operates through a centralized and automated distribution network, with a selection of more than 120,000 branded products and Henry Schein private-brand products in stock, as well as more than 180,000 additional products available as special-order items.
The framework for our offering is built on four pillars we consider to be key differentiators and fundamental to our success.
• Supply Chain Solutions: Our customers rely on us for a comprehensive product selection to deliver the right products at the right time, with inventory replenishment management solutions and business reporting.
• Technology Solutions: Our customers rely on us to harness the power of technology for the benefit of their practice or laboratory with practice management systems, integration services, technology support, hosting services, and digital solutions.
• Clinical Solutions: Our customers rely on us to stay on the cutting edge of patient care with the latest in specialty products, clinical education, laboratory services, and compliance solutions.
• Business Solutions: Our customers rely on us to help them successfully manage and grow their business through offerings such as practice planning, management consulting, financial services, and patient marketing solutions.
Heath practitioners are encourage to visit henryschein.com to explore Henry Schein’s complete resource of health care solutions for office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners.
9. Any closing thoughts?
Bruce Lieberthal: Healthcare and the healthcare business is going through huge changes and upheavals. Innovation’s promise is to find new, edgy and often provocative solutions to drive efficiency, reduce waste and cost and improve outcomes. Healthcare industry managers need to find the appropriate place for innovation in their organizations or they could get left behind. Those companies who harness innovation well will thrive. Before we launched the GIC, Henry Schein didn’t have an effective and sustainable way to truly look at somewhat futuristic, fairly raw technologies, products and services and transform them into solutions that our sales and distribution systems could get to our customers at scale. Innovation is extremely powerful as it connects brilliant, fresh and unencumbered entrepreneurs (and/or “intrapreneurs”) to the corporate engines that can take their vision and creations successfully to market.
I would like to thank DistiINFO for the opportunity; I enjoyed our conversation immensely.