Redefining Healthcare and The Patient Experience

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Making Waves with Peter Miller, Executive Consultant

Life has a funny way of bringing people together. When Peter Miller took on the role of coaching my son’s soccer team, I had no idea it would spark a lifelong friendship—and a business idea that would change the healthcare industry as we knew it. Why did the former president of Johnson & Johnson leave his role to hang out with yours truly at a Holiday Inn in Hershey, PA? Where does he see healthcare going? And how will technology play a role? All of that and more below. I hope you enjoy reading our discussion.

Making Waves is a series of conversations between New Ocean Health Solutions CEO Hal Rosenbluth and a variety of executives from a wide range of industries and areas of expertise. The below article has been edited for length and clarity from the podcast version of Hal’s interview with Peter.


Hal: Hello! How are we doing, Peter?

Peter: Hello Eeyore. I’m going to introduce you by your “official title,” the way we refer to each other.

Hal: Thank you. Please do. This is Pooh, because everything with this guy is sunshine.

Peter: And every Pooh needs a dark cloud telling them everything that’s about to go wrong.

Hal: Right. And I’m the dark cloud. Probably one of the reasons we were so successful together was we could take sunshine and a dark cloud, and instead of creating a thunderstorm, we came up with a solution.

Peter: You know, Hal, we joke about it, but it’s critical in leadership to find people who are really complementary to what you do. It’s really easy in leadership to sort of find people who are like you and want to do things the same way. But you have to have people who really complement what you do. I did a lot of stuff not well, that you did well, and vice versa. And obviously, the core of all that is actually trusting the people you work with, believing their word. And Hal, you taught me the value of friendship, which you don’t hear a lot in a corporate setting, but it’s really powerful. I’ve taken that to every company I’ve worked at since.

Hal: Peter, when I first met you, it was interesting. You were the coach of my son’s soccer team. I referred to him as the “Bad News Bears.” These kids came together, none of them really knew each other too well. And instead of playing soccer, you’d send them out there and they would create a scrum, and they were either meditating together or were talking about something. But you took this group of kids that really didn’t have self-esteem. I think that was a commonality.  And you first were able to help them with that self-esteem and have them perform at a level that maybe they never thought they were capable of, and they were fantastic. I loved how you coached, and I loved how you used emotional intelligence with kids much younger than you. And that had such a profound effect on me that one day you came up to me and you said, “Well Hal, what are you doing?” I said, “Well, I’m doing nothing.” I had just sold my company to American Express. And you said, “Well, I’d like to do something with you.” I go, “What are you, nuts?!” I mean, you’re president, you know, over at Johnson & Johnson, you want to do something with me? For whatever reason, you said yes, but we didn’t know what to do, which was really exciting. I mean, we didn’t just start with a clean sheet—we didn’t even have a sheet!

Peter: People thought I was nuts, Hal, because I was leaving a really good job at J&J. And they said, “What are you going to do?” And I said, “I don’t know. But I know I’m doing it with.” And there’s a power in that. You know how that is.

I was rising through J&J, but I started liking what I was doing less and less. It’s really interesting, as you progress, you’d think, “Oh gosh, you’re doing so well, you must love what you’re doing.” At one of the best companies in America, by the way.

But as you rise through a big company, you get further and further away from what you’re actually doing and the people you’re touching. And, you know, I wanted to do what you were doing, which was build companies.

And I had sort of done it within a J&J corporate environment. But I wanted to do it from scratch, and learn from someone who was unbelievably successful at building companies.

Hal: Well, that’s very kind of you to say. So we kind of hung around, talked about what we wanted to do. And one thing led to another, and it was this unknown, unmet need.

Peter: I remember our process well: It had to be a problem that needed solving. And we couldn’t immediately criticize the idea. We ultimately settled on the healthcare system, which has become a passion point for both of us, because so much needs fixing.

Hal: Yeah. And, you know, we saw that accessible, affordable, high-quality care just wasn’t there, and people couldn’t get a provider. The system was basically broken and unaffordable. And, you know, collectively we came up with this idea of, let’s create an industry, one where we put clinics inside of pharmacies. Well, that kind of led us to a career of laughs together.

Peter: I’ll never forget all the bad advice we got from people. We went in, we said, “We’re going to be low cost, high quality, highly accessible.” And somebody said to us, “You can’t be all three. You have to make a choice.” And we said, “What do you mean, make a choice? You can’t be both?”

Incumbents had such a hard time innovating because they’re protecting their industry, and we were starting from scratch. Sometimes it’s easier to start with nothing than with everything, because when you have everything, you just want to protect it. We had the advantage of saying, “We’re going to figure out a whole new way to get this done.”

Hal: Yeah, and we decided that the key was going to be nurse practitioners, but we didn’t know how to approach them. So one day I think you suggested we go out to, they were having a Pennsylvania convention of nurse practitioners.

Peter: In Hershey, PA. At a picturesque Holiday Inn.

Hal: It was the winter, and they had this big coat rack and you and I hid behind the coat rack. And every time a nurse practitioner came to hang their coat, we open it up and we’d be sitting behind there and started interviewing them.

Peter: It’s what I loved, Hal. I went from being President of a company of 8,000 people, worth $4 billion. And I wake up like six weeks later. I’m behind a coat rack at a Holiday Inn, questioning in nurse practitioners.

It was great. We were talking to people on the front lines of healthcare, telling them we had an idea that we think could change healthcare, and we wanted them, the nurse practitioners, at the center of that.

By the end of the conference, they invited us up to the executive leaders of the Nurse Practitioner’s Association, who wanted to hear our idea. So it was rooted in what’s needed in the marketplace. And we were asking people what they needed, we weren’t telling them. That’s where good ideas come from. And it taught us so much about making sure we prepare our team better, which I owned in terms of the interaction with the advisors, the guys raising the money.

Hal: One hundred percent. And Peter, you talked about the importance of emotional intelligence, and you’ve always had that. And that’s why everybody’s always loved you as a as a leader. You know how to approach people based on who they are, what they do well, what they don’t do well, how to coach them up and so on and so forth. Is that learned, or were you just always that way?

Peter: I do think you learn it, Hal. I mean, you learn so much in the course of your life, good and bad. I’ve been learning emotional intelligence throughout my whole life. But it was especially when I was in college, and I was fortunate to be the captain of both my sports teams that I played on in college. I really quickly learned that I was a good player, but I think my strength was working to get other people to perform better. When I went to work with Procter & Gamble, I was a 23-year-old managing people in their 30s, 40s, 50s.



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