Dr. Jennifer Schneider, chief medical officer, Livongo, joined Peggy Smedley to talk about family, technology, and being a Women of M2M/IoT. She shares how she is very blessed with an incredible family and grew up with an older brother and younger brother—and it never occurred to her that girls were any different than boys. She also gives advice and explains how the IoT (Internet of Things) can help propel us forward, almost without us even knowing.

 To hear this interview on The Peggy Smedley Show in its entirety, log onto www.peggysmedleyshow.com, and select 06/12/18 from the archives.

Smedley:
Well, first of all, I want to congratulate you once again on being named a woman of M2M/IoT. It was really wonderful having a chance to spend time with you and all the other women that shared the wonderful evening with you and the celebration. It really was nice when we were in California together. So congratulations again.

Schneider:
Thank you. Thank you. It was a fun event. Lots of really talented women there receiving awards. So that was really nice. And I was fortunate enough to bring a team of women from my own company with me. So we appreciated getting to spend time together as well.

Smedley:
So tell our listeners a little bit about your journey to where you are today because you certainly have a wonderful career. And what you’re doing at Livongo is really exciting. I think that’s going to be an impressive way to inspire some other women.

Schneider:
Sure. Absolutely. Well, thank you for the question. And I’m actually going to start with what Livongo is and then work backwards. I’m a test taker that sometimes likes to start with the answer and then figure out how to get there.

Smedley:
There you go. Wonderful.

Schneider:
So Livongo is a company that’s working to empower all people with chronic conditions to live better and healthier lives. And we’re doing that because the healthcare ecosystem today is really broken, particularly for those of us who live with chronic conditions. And really by turning the healthcare paradigm on its head and building a system that’s actually built for them, we call them members, they’re built for the patient or consumer, putting the person with the chronic condition at the center, is what we believe will change outcomes for the individual members. And in doing so, we’ll improve the health of the population and save the system money.

So that’s the answer. That is what Livongo is. And my journey is, I’m a Minnesotan and come from a very large Polish Irish Catholic family in Minnesota. I was diagnosed with type one diabetes when I was 12. And that was a big awakening into the healthcare system, both for my family and for me. (My) experience made me want to go to medical school. So I went to Johns Hopkins for medical school and then came to Stanford for a residency in internal medicine. While I was at Stanford I had the good fortune of, after my MD training, sticking around and getting a masters in health services research. So learning how to work with large population numbers, to ask questions around how to manage populations of people, in addition to the medical training I had, to start to learn how to manage people at the individual level.

I then joined a company called Castlight Health, which was really asking and answering the question around trying to create a free market in healthcare, with their first product, which was a transparency platform. So people seeking healthcare could understand, first of all, how much it was going to cost before they got the bill and what kind of quality there was related to that.

I then had a chance to move over to Livongo Health, as we talked about, (which) is a company where we’re working to empower people with chronic conditions to live better and healthier lives. And at Livongo, I lead the data science team, oversee our team of certified diabetes educators, and work this at the clinical product strategy and oversee all of our trials and outcomes.

Smedley:
It’s interesting. I love that you shared a little bit of your personal trials with us because what we’re doing is, as you know, this whole month of June is all about healthcare and aging in place—and that whole idea of wanting to have better healthcare and the idea as we get older, we want the ability to have devices that can manage our healthcare … and it’s interesting as you talk about that, it really sets that stage for us. I’m curious (do) you have a mentor. Somebody who inspired you. It sounds like your family, first of all, was one. But, was there someone in particular that inspired you? Because going to Johns Hopkins and then Stanford, there must have been someone along the way that stood out to you that encouraged you to keep going through this?

Schneider:
Yeah, it’s a really great question, I’d say, first and foremost, I am very blessed with an incredible family and very supportive parents. In fact, I grew up with an old brother and a younger brother. And it never occurred to me that girls were anything different than boys, any limitations on women or men. When I went to college, I remember learning about feminism classes. And I was puzzled by the concept, because I had gotten to age 18 without embracing the concept that there was a reason, or that people were treated differently, independent of whether or not there should be a reason. So definitely a very strong grounding for my family.

I think the other person that was fairly influential to me was when I was diagnosed with type one diabetes was my endocrinologist—a man by the name of Dr. Roger Nelson out of the Mayo clinic. And the reason that he was so powerful for me was that, at the age of 12, he really gave me the reins to control my destiny and had a lot of conversations around the way he treated me and he talked to me very much in an adult manner. This condition was going to be mine to manage in a way that I wanted to manage it and he was going to supply the information. And my parents would be helpers, but it wasn’t my parents. This was for me. And at the age of 12, that ability to be treated and trusted and empowered to get to make the decision was something that really struck home with me.

And so that was I think, in many ways, my entrance into the medical world. And my interest piqued and that was one of the reasons why I went to medical school. In fact, after Nelson, years later, he wrote some recommendations for me, in terms of fellowships coming outside of college and outside of medical school. So I had a long, endearing relationship with him. Again, just off the basis that he was going to let me be in control of what I was going to do. And I really liked that.

Smedley:
So looking at that, a younger and older brother, you’re in the middle there. And then you have this endocrinologist that gives you the guidance. You’re looking at this and you say, “Okay. I’ve got to be in charge. I’m going to be in charge. No one is going to tell me I can’t.” And now there’s technology that comes into play. And you think about this and you say, “Nothing can stop me.” It’s that idea that I have nothing in my way but myself. It’s kind of the thing.

So why is technology then so important to healthcare? And I always like to set the stage with this, because we are only limited by our imagination. I tell that to everybody who works with me here. My kids, it’s the same thing. That’s the key. And that’s what you’re saying, right? It’s that, technology now, the only limiting factor is what we can’t imagine. And so, isn’t that the same thing that you’ve done and that what you’re thinking about now with what we do with technology?

Schneider:
Yeah, it’s a really great question Peggy. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think we are our own rate limiters. In fact, I have three children, a girl, girl, and then a boy. And I often say to them, “We don’t use the word can’t. We might use the word, not allowed to. You’re not allowed to eat ice cream right before dinner, but we don’t use the word can’t. Because we can. You can do anything. It might be hard, but you can do it.” And it’s that mental mind set. We will never do incredible, extraordinary things, unless we absolutely believe that we can do them. So I wholeheartedly agree with you. And that’s the approach to accomplishing and creating new, novel, beneficial things, is to believe. Start with a belief that you can. And often times, it starts with an individual belief that we each have. And this is where I’m very grateful to my parents because I had that very much instilled in me that I could do anything. So I’m not filled with self doubt from the outside.

Technology to me is really interesting. Technology to me, as an end in and of itself I don’t think is very meaningful. I think technology is a way to propel us forward, almost without knowing that technology is behind the scenes to create things to be easier, is what is valuable. And there’s a quote that, and I’m sure you’ve heard or read, and I’m going likely butcher it, but it’s by Sir Arthur Clark. And it’s the quote around, “Technology perfectly deployed is indistinguishable from magic.” Technology in and of itself is not an end goal. Technology that enables us to do things better, faster, smarter, easier, is the goal. And so I think of technology as just one of the tool sets for us to increase and improve and allow us to do more things at a different pace in a better fashion.

Smedley:
So then, taking that a step further, what do you think then are the leading issues in the healthcare industry? Because we have a lot of hurdles. We really do, when we think of privacy, we think of government, we think of, just the physical issues. You know, the chronic issues in healthcare. But what in general is holding us back? Again, is it mindset. We have so much information, we probably could cure a lot of these illnesses, because the data is out there, it’s just how we use it, right? There’s just so much globally that we can do, but we just haven’t done it.

Schneider:
Yeah. I’m with you. Healthcare has a lot of issues. It’s a great industry for innovation, because there’s many inefficiencies in many areas where we’ve frankly just fallen short. And if I had to distill it to one concept that I think actually puts us where we are, I think it’s that the design of the current healthcare system was not really designed around the individual person needing the care, it’s designed around how to build an increasingly large system to support people.

Here’s a great example: I needed to have a procedure done by a doc that I had seen five years ago. I needed to come back for the same procedure. She asked me to come back in five years. When I called them they said, well you’re now a new patient. “Well, how could I be a new patient? That doctor actually did a procedure.” “Okay, well now you’re a new patient.” I’m like, “Okay.”

“But now you need to have a new patient visit, which we’re not available for another six months.” But okay. So I’ll wait six more months to have the next procedure that the doc started five years ago. And then they said, “Well, you can’t actually come in as a new patient and have the procedure done on the same day.” And I thought, well that seems sort of crazy. So I’m going to wait six months to have a visit to not get done what I need to have done to then schedule another appointment. I’m like, “Okay. Can I schedule that second appointment now?” They said, “No, you can’t schedule it until you have the first appointment.” And I said, “Okay. Well, what’s the wait time?” They said it will be another six months.

So that’s a year out from something that I was in the system. And this is like an example of a system set of rules (that) are not actually designed around what benefits the patient or what the patient needs to actually move effectively. And keep in mind, I’m a savvy healthcare consumer. I’m a doc; I work at a healthcare company and I have friends who are doctors.

So the system is not designed around the experience or what people need. It’s designed around a series of algorithms for billing, for coding, for reimbursement, for capital, yada, yada, yada. But not designed around the individual patient, the individual member. So I see that as one of our biggest opportunities if you will, whenever there’s a problem or an issue or a kink in the system, it’s really an opening for some innovative creator to come in and make it better.

I see that as a big opening for the likes of those of us at Livongo and thankfully many, many other companies trying to create experiences for patients for members.

Smedley:
Isn’t it, though, it’s like a lot of industries. It’s a machine. It’s got to make profits. it’s got to do things, got to get patients in and out. It’s run more efficiently. That’s what it has to do. But yet at the same time, just what you described, patients get lost in that. And that personal touch that you just described sometimes gets lost in that. And that’s where that idea of being able to serve the individual gets lost because they have to do things the way they see in the masses, versus the individual you just described. And not everybody is the same.

That’s why we’re all individuals, are individual bodies, our individual needs are different. And sometimes that’s what you just described. And as we get older and elderly and living longer, things that we knew 20 years ago are going to be completely different 20 years from now because everything is changing from what we knew 20, 30 years ago.

Schneider:
I think that that’s right Peggy. And I think that there’s a great opportunity here. So with all of the data that we can now collect on all of us, how often we sleep, how often we walk, what our purchasing habits are, how often are we refilling the milk in our refrigerator, and that equals some amount of consumption into the household. All these bits of data, it’s incredible the amount of data. And I think there’s a huge opportunity to harness that data and to help provide education and feedback to individual people at the right time. And leveraging the advances in science, the advances in technology, the advances in access such as telehealth and teleproviders, to actually try to get to everybody so you can truly start to personalize that. And you’re seeing, I think, an ever-evolving movement around “population health,” which is looking at mass groups of people, but actually doing that effectively by treating each individual person as a specific, unique entity.

Smedley:
This is where I go to my pitch that I tell everyone, this is our opportunity to go to the STEM and get more young millennials and then I guess I don’t know what the next generation below them are involved. Women involved and men, younger generations involved. And be innovative to think and cure ailments and chronic illnesses and to invent and to create things that we haven’t even begun to think about yet because of all of this incredible data that we’ve been collecting and storing and expose and figure out what we can do with it. This is where great minds can come out of great things.

Schneider:
I think that that’s right. I think, again, I think whenever there’s something that’s broken, not working well, is an amazing opportunity for incredibly smart, driven people to come in and create something new. And we’re seeing that in healthcare. I think a lot of the announcements around Amazon, Berkshire, JP Morgan for example, is a great acknowledgement like, “Look. Hey. We’re not fixing it, we’re not fixing it fast enough, so we’re going to try. We’re going to enter and we’re going to try something.” And I think we’re seeing that across healthcare, investing into new start-ups, to new entrepreneurs who have new novel ideas. Now they may not all work, they may not all work perfectly, but people are interested in trying. And that to me is what’s so exciting to be in healthcare right now is that there’s a very large collective “We” working to address the overall system to make it better. And that will take some time, but we’ll get there. I have confidence and “always bet on yourself” is a phrase that I grew up with in my house. Always bet on yourself, because you know that you’re going to get it done. Bet on yourself.

And so, I think that those of us in healthcare are doing that. And hopefully we’ll have a positive outcome.

Smedley:
So, let’s talk about that. Three children, two girls, one boy. What advice do you give them?

Schneider:
Yes. I have, they’re all very, very different children—all unique. And advice that I give them is, like I said, don’t say can’t, believe in yourself, find what you love, express what you love. And that is across the board. That’s math, that’s reading, it’s piano, that’s music, it’s dance, it’s karate. And explore, try and just find joy, and you will find, once you find what you love, you will excel at that. I think that’s a very common theme in our household. And I think the idea around working hard and really being committed to something when you decide to do it for as long as you want, but while you’ve made that decision is committing and working hard at what you’ve done.

Smedley:
It’s amazing. You have three children, how their raised by the same people, yet they’re all different, right? Amazing, different individuals, different minds, different spirits. And that’s the thing. It’s inspiring them. Are there current books, something you love that has inspired you as well? You talked about quotes. Are there certain things you read that inspire you, that encouraged you to do things differently? Or that you encourage your children? Reading is always important. I always tell everyone; you can never stop reading.

Schneider:
It’s a great question. I think, we are. I’m an avid reader. Although I have to say “reader” in quotes, because I’m a runner. And so most of my reading time for my personal reading time is spent while I’m out running. So, I’m listening to books, rather than reading them. My reading time is spent with my five, seven, and nine year old, reading the books that they are interested and into. And those really span a wide spectrum from Newbury Classics to Harry Potter to a Komodo Dragon, my five year old little boy is really into some interesting species these days.

But I do think that inspiration for me is actually less around iconic figures and more day-to-day moments. I think there’s lots of inspirational pieces and times. And so, whether it’s a friend or conversation or something that you see in nature or the most hilarious, funny thing that one of your children says to you when you crawl out of bed, I feel like there’s lots of moments to be inspired and to be reminded about. What we’re here for and how fun and precious and unique the opportunity we have to interact with each other and to do something for the greater good.

Smedley:
That’s a really good point, because I think in time, in life, I think sometimes we forget about enjoying those precious moments that we have. But also sharing those moments with others. How do we do that to inspire other women? Other women to be involved in technology? Because I think that’s so very important and I probably love to say that all the time about other women because I think there’s not enough women who want to be in technology. We seem to lose that. And I think we were all talking about that when we got together. I think I heard something about, by the age of 16, we lose a lot of women. They’re interested at 12, then we lose them at 16. How do we get more women to want to have the love of science, math, technology? You know, all of the STEM programs to get them to feel the passion so they feel that they should be inspired. We don’t want them not to be inspired by the arts, but that they don’t feel that they can’t do it. That they’re discouraged in some way.

Because, you know, it is hard to do. And sometimes we lose that enthusiasm, but to feel that they shouldn’t think that they can’t do it. Because anything worth having is difficult at times.

Schneider:
I definitely don’t have the magic bullet on this one. But I do think that, again, exposure and belief and encouragement to what most interests you is a great way to go forward. For example, my nine year old is very much of a reader, writer, musician, and yet she wants to be a volcanologist. I had to look it up, I didn’t even know what that was.

Smedley:
I don’t know what that is. You’ll have to tell me.

Schneider:
She wants to study volcanoes when she grows older. She’s fascinated with volcanoes. And so, there’s this idea, I’d rather them say, “Oh, that’s so interesting. I don’t think of you as a scientist. I think of you as artsy.” When you say words like that, you’re cementing your view about her versus, “That’s amazing. I don’t even know what that is. Let’s go find a book. Let’s explore what that is. Teach me what you love about that.” And again, it’s this idea of, rather than telling people or reaffirming how you see people, but particularly when kids are young, allowing them to explore whatever that is and it may stick, it may not stick. But rather than reflecting back how you see them, letting them explore and create and try different things so that they can come to that thing which most excites them.

Smedley:
Now I understand you completed your first Iron Man. I don’t even know quite what that is, but you’re going to have to explain that, because I know the running thing, but you’re much more aggressive and competitive than I am here…

Schneider:
Well, I think that the reality for me is, I have an addictive personalty and I happen to be addicted to things that the world sees as really beneficial. So, without a doubt, I love to exercise. I feel, my thoughts are clear, I sleep well, I’m a happy mood. And so, I definitely have that sustained runner’s endorphin high and have had it since I was really young, growing up in a rambunctious house with an older and a younger brother, where my mom put us in every sport possible. I’m pretty sure just to get us out of the house.

And so, my love of athleticism, my love of testing limits and pushing to see what’s possible is a direct result of that across the spectrum. And often times I fall short, but I still love to try. And so, an Iron Man for me, which is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 mile run in one day, was something that was out there as other people have done this and tried this, this is a real thing you can try. And I just wanted to see if I could do it. And I did. And I enjoyed the experience. But more than that, enjoyed the friendships that I formed and the people with whom I got to train, leading up to that event, the people in the event. So, lots to learn and lots to do. But again, that commitment is not trying to convince myself to get off the couch every day, but that is really seeding into something that I know and I love and I have loved for a really long time.

If you had to ask me to dance ballet for that many hours, I don’t think I could do that.

Smedley:
So is that something that you’d do again, or you say, “I did it, I’m done. I’m not sure I’d do it again?” Or you just wanted to have the experience of doing it?

Schneider:
Next one I’m going to do, I’m going to race and try to go fast.

Smedley:
All right… So going forward, what advice then would you give other women? Would you say, “Hey. Go out there. Experience new things. Try new things.” Is that the idea? What advice would you give some woman who wants to try a new job? What advice would you give? I mean, it seems like you’ve lived a full life.

Schneider:
I think the advice that I would give is a couple things. One is don’t doubt yourself. You have one life, don’t doubt yourself. If there’s something you want to do, believe in yourself and do it. And the second is don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. I think that is a trait that I very often see women not do, relative to male counterparts. So, if there’s something that you want, whether it’s a bigger job or a bigger title or more time off or more money or a different career, ask for it. Go for it. There’s no, you can’t ever sit in the best seats if you don’t ask for them. So there’s no harm in asking and just have the confidence that you are valuable in what you’re doing and ask for what you want.