Authority Magazine: Bobby Green Interview
An Interview With Dave Philistin
Content expertise is critical. In healthcare, you don’t always have the same consumer understanding that comes with consumer-facing technology. You have to find the balance between people that understand technology and people who know the clinical subject matter early on in the course of the company to shape your product.
In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course, many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby Green.
Bobby Green is a medical oncologist and Thyme Care’s President and Chief Medical Officer. Prior to joining Thyme Care, Bobby was the Chief Medical Officer at Flatiron Health. He practiced medical oncology in West Palm Beach, Fl at Palm Beach Cancer Institute (which became part of Florida Cancer Specialists) from 1999–2021.
Most Interesting Story Since Career Began
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Once, I saw a patient who had been seen in another office before coming to me. She had already developed her chemotherapy plan with another doctor, so I asked if they’d spoken about side effects. She said they had and that she’d recorded it. I asked her to play the recording. As she was playing it, the doctor was explaining how one of the side effects could be hair loss. The woman paused the recording, turned to her family, and said, “he never told me that.” I love sharing this story because it just shows how impossible it is to take in all of the information you’re given as you’re going through cancer. I’m really grateful our Thyme Care Oncology Nurses are able to help our members sift through all of the information and ease that load.
Who Helped You Get To Where You Are Today?
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My grandfather was a pharmacist and always wanted to be a doctor. He was one of those people who was always generous and kind, and I frequently saw these little instances in his life where he would go out of his way to help people. He got me interested in medicine in general but also in the interpersonal aspect, which is so important in oncology.
Favorite Life Lesson
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A patient once said to me, “Everyday that I wake up is a good day. I don’t worry about the things you can’t change.” I said, “That is such a great attitude, how long have you felt like that?” To which he said, “Ever since I stepped on a landmine in Korea and it didn’t go off.” Working with veterans was some of the most inspiring work that I have done as an oncologist. You meet so many people who have lived very different experiences, and give such great perspectives.
Three Character Traits That Helped You Succeed
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The first is a value we had at Flatiron Health we called “being willing to sit on the floor,” basically just being willing to do what you need to get things done. What I’ve found across my career, whether it’s in practice, at Flatiron, or now at Thyme Care, sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done.
Another character trait that I think is important is the willingness to try new things and take risks. As an oncologist, I always had a lot of opportunities to do new things and work with new groups. These things might have made my days longer, or maybe caused me to get less sleep once and a while, but I don’t regret any of them. Trying new things, saying yes to introductions or conversations have always opened up new doors for me, and I think that’s critically important for anyone wanting to be a successful business leader.
The last value that I’d highlight is to be kind. Regardless of the scenario, you can always learn from the experiences of others and approach situations by assuming positive intent. That can go a long way in building relationships. We’re always better off taking that attitude — no matter what we’re doing.
What Are You Trying To Solve?
What problems are you aiming to solve?
Approximately 1.9M Americans are diagnosed with cancer annually. When an individual has been told they might have cancer, they are often faced with confusion and vulnerability. They are urgently seeking guidance from a trusted source, but only 12% of Americans have the skills necessary to successfully navigate our healthcare system — let alone the complexity of cancer care.
I worked for 25 years as an oncologist, and I don’t think a day ever went by when I didn’t walk out of the exam room and know that my patient was going to need things they wouldn’t be able to get. You’ll never meet a more dedicated group of people than those who work in oncology, but there are gaps that still exist outside of the clinic. Things like getting transportation, help with scheduling, reinforcing or clarifying guidance their oncologist has given, understanding what meds to take when, or even gaining access to a wheelchair to safely move around their home. These are things that an oncologist can’t always do, but Thyme Care can. We are here at every step of the way helping patients navigate their cancer journey and partnering with oncologists to extend their high-quality care beyond the doctor’s office.
The Role of Technology
How do you think your technology can address this?
We are utilizing technology to extend the reach of our Care Team and enable them to do things that were previously time-consuming, difficult, or nearly impossible–creating efficiencies and allowing them to focus on getting patients the highest quality care in a timely manner.
We are also focusing our efforts in creating a versatile platform that meets patients where they are. We prioritize engaging with our members with the tech modality of their preference–if you like to use text or a mobile device, great. But if a landline is your go-to we’re happy to use that as the primary communication method. Our priority is making the lives of our members easier.
Behind the scenes, our platform is performing comprehensive patient profiling by ingesting disparate data from across the healthcare system and providing actionable insights in real-time that our Care Team can act on. Data helps us identify and address the historically unmet unique needs of cancer populations. It creates a feedback loop that allows us to continually learn more and identify patients at critical moments in their journey while addressing their needs through personalized interventions. Our approach isn’t achievable without the technology enabling our high-touch moments.
Lack of Comprehensive Care Navigation
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Anyone that has worked in oncology gets a lot of questions from people they know who’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer — friends or acquaintances looking for connections and advice. It’s a limbo period and patients feel vulnerable. I get these calls all the time, and I’m able to answer questions and usually help point people in the right direction or expedite an appointment — all of which can have a big impact on which oncologists they see and the timeline in which they receive their care. For the majority of people who don’t know an oncologist, they often feel stuck, which doesn’t seem fair. My colleague and I, Robin Shah, noticed this lack of comprehensive cancer care navigation that broadly covered the needs of patients on a bigger scale, and out of that, Thyme Care was born.
The Future of Cancer Navigation
How do you think this might change the world?
Cancer is really hard, and we’re certainly not lacking amazing oncologists in both community and academic settings. However, by filling in the gaps, we’re ultimately making it easier for clinicians to take care of patients. For example, it’s hard to provide chemotherapy if the patient can’t get a ride to the office. Overcoming those seemingly small barriers to care that happen outside the oncology office can change the trajectory of a patient’s care, and we’re already hearing really exciting stories from interactions with members showing that.
The Risk of Technology
In any industry where you’re using data to inform decisions, there’s always a risk of propagating pre-existing biases. From our care team to our data scientists, we work hard to make sure we’re avoiding this pitfall.
How to Create Successful Social Impact with Technology
Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)
1. Content Expertise is Critical
In healthcare, you don’t always have the same consumer understanding that comes with consumer-facing technology. You have to find the balance between people that understand technology and people who know the clinical subject matter early on in the course of the company to shape your product.
2. Privacy is A Priority
When it comes to security, you can’t do the bare minimum. It’s critically important for us to do the hard stuff, do it right, and remain compliant with the regulations that are in place to protect the safety and privacy of our members.
3. People Come First
The common silicon valley phrase, “move fast and break things” doesn’t apply in health tech. We can’t just throw in a new feature that could potentially harm someone. You always have to have the right structure and guardrails in place.
4. Do the Right Thing
If something feels like it will add value for the people you are focused on, even if it might cost more or take more time, sometimes the answer is to do it anyway. There’s always value in doing the right thing. Often, that translates into positive business outcomes as well.
5. Cross-Functional Teams Are Critical
I mentioned the importance of clinicians in healthcare technology above, but you need a talented and diverse group of cross-functional stakeholders to be successful. Clinicians are only part of the answer.
Make A Meaningful Impact
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
We’re all in this together, and the only way the world we live in is going to be better is if the people living in it try to make it better. Sometimes that comes from volunteering or things you do at home, but sometimes you can be lucky enough that it becomes part of your work. I get an incredibly large amount of personal gratification when I see the downstream effect of my actions and the work we are doing here at Thyme Care. Even on my worst days, I get to wake up and know that I’m doing something that’s meaningful and important.
Who Would You Share a Private Meal With?
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?
Lin-Manuel Miranda for two reasons: First, I’m a big fan of Hamilton and am just blown away by how so much creativity can come from one person. Second, it would make all of my kids and my wife incredibly jealous.
Or maybe Bruce Springsteen for the same reasons.
How Can Readers Follow Your Work?
How can our readers further follow your work online?