Sarah Worthy of Door Space Talks about Healthcare Talent Management

If you are a physician, nurse, allied health professional or the administrator in charge of healthcare talent management at your organization, you will want to hear what Sarah Worthy has to say.

Sarah is tackling the problem of keeping track of medical professionals’ credentials, continuing educations and compliance training. As the CEO at Door Space, she has created a digital talent management system for healthcare. Sarah has over 15 years’ experience designing and implementing enterprise technology that connects silos across customer-facing departments; now she is using that expertise to connect silos inside employee-facing departments.

In our chat, we discuss:

  • The impact of increasing continuing education requirements and high healthcare employee turnover on talent management
  • Why startups need to talk with their customer and be open to changing their assumptions
  • What it’s like being a female entrepreneur seeking funding in the healthcare space

This is an episode of the Leading with Health podcast, formerly titled “Healthcare Lead Generation.” In this podcast, healthcare IT disruptors, innovative healthcare providers and health sector company leaders join host Jennifer Michelle to discuss growth strategies and navigating change.

Jennifer Michelle, MPH, EMT is a marketing consultant specializing in the healthcare sector. President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, she has a Master’s in International Health & Epidemiology and currently volunteers as an EMT. Her unique background allows her to bring unexpected insight and depth to every interview.

Healthcare Talent Management with Sarah Worthy (Podcast Transcript)

Jennifer: 00:03 Hi, everybody! I’m Jennifer with Michelle Marketing Strategies, where I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads and grow their businesses. Today on the Healthcare Lead Generation podcast, we are talking with Sarah Worthy. Sarah is the CEO of Door Space, which is a digital talent management system for healthcare. You can find it at Sarah, welcome! It is such a pleasure to have you on the podcast.

Sarah: 00:30 Thanks so much for having me, Jennifer.

Jennifer: 00:32 Well, I think it’s a really exciting topic. Let’s talk a little bit about the issues behind talent management for healthcare. If someone is having issues with talent management for their health system, what do those issues look like, for those of us who are listening, what are the problems that are coming up in that field now? What are they dealing with?

Sarah: 00:54 There are so many challenges in healthcare around talent management. Specifically, where I’ve been focused with Door Space is on helping to connect the back end of a healthcare organization – that’s managing the workforce and the talent side of it – to that front end that is now been connected through a lot of digital tools – information about patient data, billing, insurance, all the financial transactions. That’s all being processed digitally and at the pace and scale of digital. But on the back end, they’re still dealing with 90 percent manual processes. And the tools that are out there to help manage some of these HR and talent management tools are often legacy systems that were built during the industrial era or aren’t really suited.

Jennifer: 01:47 Why does that not surprise me in healthcare, that you have something that manual and ancient as the system. Of course, of course.

Sarah: 01:57 They still have fax machines …

Jennifer: 01:58 Yes, I was going to say …

Sarah: 02:00 So there’s a lot of problem with getting information from one department to another in healthcare and, when we’re talking about healthcare talent, it’s one of those highly specialized and regulated workforces. So a doctor or a nurse can’t just walk into any hospital that has a shift open and start treating patients. They have to go through a credentialing process with the organization, as well as make sure they have their state license requirements, their professional association training and requirements. It can take several months to get a new doctor or nurse through this credentialing process before they’re able to see patients.
Jennifer: 02:41 I no idea, I didn’t know it was that long.

Sarah: 02:45 On average, it takes three months for an RN position and it takes as long as nine months for a physician to get through the panel. And it costs $30,000 a month to an organization in lost revenue because a physician can’t see a patient and bill for that patient. So every month that they’re waiting for that physician to get through that process, hospitals are losing $30,000. So, in a typical organization of 100 clinicians, with a turnover rate of 16 percent, which is really high, but that’s the industry average, they’re losing and having to replace 16 clinicians every year on a rotating cycle, and that’s $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 in lost revenue because of how long that process is taking. And a lot of it is because they’re having to fax and email and gather printed pieces of paper, manually type those into a digital system in one place while simultaneously going to do primary source verification and chase down where a doctor went to get their medical license 20 years ago. And that’s being replicated by five or six different organizations – insurance companies are all doing this at the same time. For every physician, every time this happens. So that makes it almost impossible, just getting your talent approved to see a patient.

Jennifer: 04:09 What are some of the trends that are going on that are making this happen even more? I know that, when we spoke previously, you’d mentioned things like mobility, but are there other issues going on in healthcare right now that make this even more of a need?

Jennifer: 04:22 Yeah. One of the really unique things about healthcare that other industries are much more opposed to is that it is very common and accepted that a doctor is going to have privileges and be working at multiple hospitals at the same time. They’ll just have one employer at a time, people in other industries. Nurses, as well, often work at more than one place and the organizations understand that they are sharing the resources like this. The only challenge is when you have somebody who is working at two or three places and each of those has their own siloed system and process. Then that physician or nurses, they’re moving from their day-to-day seeing patients at different organizations. They don’t have that continuity with their documents and they’re having to replicate all that information over and over again.

Jennifer: 05:11 It’s amazing.

Sarah: 05:13 And telemedicine is another one that’s experiencing this problem. If you’re a patient in one state and you want to call into a telemedicine company, they’re having to figure out how to mostly manually deal with the fact that they have physicians in different states from patients and how do they connect them and make sure that those physicians are licensed in that state? You have to be licensed in each state that you’re practicing medicine and there’s some sort of process so they’re trying to figure out how to deal with that. It’s very complicated.

Jennifer: 05:46 It sounds it. So let’s move a little bit more towards the marketing of this. This is the problem you’re trying to solve. This is what your space is all about. And as a startup, you’re setting all that in motion. So you’re ready to grow and obviously that’s what this podcast is about. So let’s switch our focus a little bit to there. Now I know that when people launch a new product, the first thing that I am always saying that they need to do is to talk to their potential customers, to talk to the people they’ll be selling to, and yet that’s not usually the first step. I know that you agree with me on this, that talking to people is very important. I just wanted to hear your experience with that because so many in startups, especially in startups especially in healthcare, don’t realize that the first place to go is to start talking to people. What have you encountered with that?

Sarah: 06:37 Oh, it’s so crucial and it’s mindblowing. You’re so right. How people don’t get out of the building and talk to people. Or they’ll get out of the building and talk to people who are just like them.

Jennifer: 06:51 That is literally what we see over and over, isn’t it? And then they wonder why it’s not working for different groups. Why some people are saying it’s got bias in it. They don’t even understand the connection there, but you’re right. It’s from the very beginning.

Sarah: 07:04 Yeah, it absolutely is. As a founder, I love my idea. As founders, we all do. And I want to see this company grow. We want to be able to change the world for the better, the way our vision is and so that is a truth that creates a potential for biases to come in when we’re talking to people. And it is hard. It’s very hard to go out and have people tell you your idea’s wrong or stupid or whatever. But that’s kind of why I’ve come up with this as an idea. I didn’t say one day, oh, I want to build a better talent management system than what’s out there. Right? I found a problem to solve. And I think that the way you approach this when you’re out there talking to people is you think about who are all the people that are involved in this problem, who are somehow going to have to interact, and start looking at it more holistically.

Sarah: 07:59 I have to talk to nurses, doctors, administrators. I’ve talked to people in home healthcare staffing, hospitals. I talked across the C-suite, including CFOs just to get their perspective. And it’s surprising to me how I sat down and just thought, going into a meeting, that it was one way because I’ve talked to a few people. And then this one person will add one perspective that opens up a window. It suddenly changes the entire picture of how this needs to be solved and addressed more optimally. Just one person in a compliance role or a role that might not seem that big. They add a piece of the work process that goes because this is a system.

Jennifer: 08:47 Absolutely. Tell me, I know you also have a background in marketing from your prior career. Let’s talk about that. How has that helped you understand who to talk to and what things to ask? Because I think, from my perspective, sometimes it seems very obvious, but I don’t think it is. I think that’s experience and it sounds like you also have that experience going in. Do you find when you talk to other entrepreneurs that they are also sharing that understanding of who to go and talk to?

Sarah: 09:19 I think some people do it better than others. I certainly don’t want to stereotype entrepreneurs right now because I meet a lot of them that do things really well. So, it’s not everybody out there, but we see this right now. There’s just a large number of ideas out there. When it comes to the questions, it’s unique to each situation again, but it’s really got to be about understanding their problem. So I don’t ask questions about my product. I don’t show people my product. I don’t bring a laptop to these meetings and demo anything. I don’t ask them, do you want a better credentialing tool? I ask them how many credentials are they managing, what are the challenges that they are dealing with in their workflow right now? How much time are they spending on these different tasks? And I evolved that list of questions almost every meeting a little bit and I learn a little bit more. I really asked on that and what their budgets are.

Jennifer: 10:26 Of course, and part of that is the sales conversation. Any good person in sales in healthcare will tell you, you start out by asking all kinds of questions and that’s how the relationship begins and that’s how you learn what’s really on their mind. But I’m guessing that you started asking these questions before you had even developed Door Space. Is that the case?

Sarah: 10:45 Oh yeah. Absolutely. I first came up with this as a problem I was having with managing my credentials and the skills I’d learned that I’d applied. We get to a certain point in our career where we kind of forget half of what we already knew, so to speak. And

Jennifer: 11:05 Yea, have you ever done that, where you have to look at your own resume, and you’re like, oh, that’s right, I forgot I did that.

Sarah: 11:11 Articles I’ve written and I’m just like, I wrote that? You know, years later, I’m like I was a really good writer.

Jennifer: 11:21 Yeah, that’s a good sign, though. That your career has those little nuggets to find. So it was very personal. You were like, if I have problems keeping track of all this, imagine an environment where there is such a large number of people to keep track of in so much detail. So how long did it take you to go from idea to deciding, yes, I want to launch this as a company?

Sarah: 11:45 Oh, probably almost two years. I was just kind of doing other things. I even started working on this idea when I was at another company, getting ready to wrap up that role and start looking for another job. That was when I realized that a resume just wasn’t very good at communicating what I knew how to do. And because I’m here in Houston, which is a very awesome environment for what I’m trying to do, I have friends who were doctors and nurses who were in financial or oil and gas and I would just talk to them. That’s when I learned that my problem was very tiny compared to this other problem, where these certificates, credentials, licenses were really required and they had to be maintained and that they weren’t able to take it with them from job to job. They stayed inside the organization. So the organization was trying to manage all of this process well and I realized that’s where paying customers exists. Not just people like me who are learning nerds.

Jennifer: 12:59 Learning nerd – I love that!

Sarah: 12:59 Because I just wanted an app that made it easier for me to collect this stuff, kind of a learning bookmark thing. And what we’re building now is a real solution for an industry problem. That is what we’re early to market. There’s not too many other people out there trying to even solve aspects of this right now.

Jennifer: 13:22 So how interested are people when they start talking about it? I’m guessing people are very much like, yes, that is a big pain point. That is exactly the problem that we’re having a lot.

Sarah: 13:35 A lot of them have this problem. It’s so funny. It’s really, really rare for me to run into someone in healthcare who’s a physician and they don’t have this problem, but I do run into those people and I think part of it is because, if you’re in a certain role in a certain stage in your career, you might be grandfathered in and not have to take as many of these new requirements. They might be in a role where they’re not moving from job to job anymore and they usually don’t have that problem. But a lot of the newer graduates out of medical school and nursing school, psychologists also, they’re actually more interested in this because of the fact that they’re so used to not having to deal with paper and fax machines that the idea that they’re about to have to enter the workforce and deal with this … the average doctor and nurse spends nine hours a week on this type of non-patient-related paperwork, so they’re horrified by that. They’re like, of course there should be an app for this. Why isn’t there one for this already? I’m finding it just depends on who I’m talking to, where they find that interest and why.

Jennifer: 14:45 Okay. So let’s go until the next stage. I know there’s something that you and I have spoken about. I know it’s something that’s come up with different people I’ve spoken with on the podcast, as well, but there are not a lot of female entrepreneurs in the healthcare space. So that’s a very unique thing and it’s growing. I know there are more and more female founders, but it’s still a pretty small group. So what I’m curious about is, is that something that is a different experience compared to the male entrepreneurs that you’re encountering? How do you handle the fact that people may listen to your procedure differently, especially when you’re coming in with something very digital and very new that maybe they’ve not thought of before?

Sarah: 15:31 So it’s funny doing this. I’ve been a woman in IT my whole career, obviously. So I’ve experienced the conferences where there’s no line in the women’s restroom, that kind of thing, In healthcare, surprisingly, I do experience some bias I think because I’m a woman, but it’s never been outward. And it’s not been that much. I think it is important that that’s acknowledged that we’re in those situations and we feel like … maybe. We don’t know. I feel it’s a lot more in the investor, in the fundraising side. That’s where I really experienced what I know is because I’m a woman. But interestingly, in health care, what surprised me is it’s less important that I’m a woman and it’s more important that I don’t have some sort of health care credential and experience in the industry. And I do face bias coming in as sort of an outsider from the ecommerce, digital world into healthcare for the first time.

Jennifer: 16:39 That’s an interesting point to talk about because I have noticed that when I was working to market different healthcare technologies, as well. If you don’t have a doctor as an advisor, no one necessarily listens, or at least it’s a lot harder to get them to listen. Or if you don’t have a nurse or whoever it is. I find that it’s interesting because I see why it’s important, but I also can see that it winds up being a little insular and I wonder if it ever prevents new ideas from coming in. I wonder if there’s a way to open that up. Is that something that you’ve ever seen? I mean obviously you want them to understand the health system, but it might also be good to have someone who understands different systems, as well, which it sounds like is what you offer.

Sarah: 17:26 I see it all the time in healthcare, as well as other industries where the product is too niche. Or too small a market. But in healthcare it’s very departmental and specialized, so you might see a ton of credentialing tools out there for physicians, but there’s really nothing out there that addresses some of the allied health tech professionals, nursing professionals which make up the majority of the group. A percentage of that workforce is physicians and that’s where most of these solutions are focused because the person that team is listening to is a doctor.

Jennifer: 18:12 They are speaking about their experience and their pain points. It kind of ties back to what you were saying earlier, which is the need to talk to a range of people because you broaden out what you can offer and what people are looking for.

Sarah: 18:27 One of my advisors talks about that book, I think it was by Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point. He talks about how there’s mavens and connectors. I haven’t read the book in ages, but he talks about how a lot of these healthcare decision makers, it’s less about them trying to be sexist or biased or exclude outsiders and it’s more that maven personality. They’re so used to being the person responsible for caring for others and taking care of other people’s lives. They just have a little bit more of a protective attitude. I don’t know if that helps get around it any. It is hard when somebody just will meet with me because a mutual friend referred me over and they want to do that friend a favor and then they sit there and just condescend to me and talk to me like I don’t know anything. That’s not most people, you know, that’s just some people.

Jennifer: 19:27 But I think it’s something that happens periodically and that you’re not the only one experiencing that. So how do you turn that into something useful for you? Instead of just having to suck it up and get through it, what are ways to actually use that towards your work?

Sarah: 19:44 You can always leave.

Jennifer: 19:46 Well, yes, you can. If it’s really bad. I do think there are points where a person should, but let’s say you decide not to.

Sarah: 19:53 Yeah, usually you only get 20 or 30 minutes with these people because they’re very busy in healthcare so it’s not a long meeting to have to endure. And I think for me, I use those as opportunities. They show that women are better at negotiating when they are doing it a certain way … and I think this is an advantage as a woman that I have, particularly in healthcare, where if I ask them for information, a lot of times they’ll just tell me. They won’t hold back. And I have had male entrepreneurs be surprised when I’ve gotten information, where I’ve gotten contact details from someone that they couldn’t get access to.

Jennifer: 20:33 That’s a really nice point that I don’t think we consider enough. I think there’s more and more focused on the gender difference in experience with people launching a company, with people entering different areas of perhaps male-dominated workforces. But I don’t think we see that it goes both ways, which is they’re not as used to women in that space, but maybe when a woman does enter that space, they are able to get information that a man isn’t able to get. And that just goes to show you that these biases and how we interact with each other help and hinder on all levels.

Sarah: 21:08 But you have to ask the question. They will never tell you. But I’ve been surprised sometimes. There have been doctors that were just completely dismissive of what I was saying. Not outwardly but when someone’s clearly just ignoring you and trying their best to be not rude, but just dismissive. I try not to disparage people but, when I asked, hey, so is there somebody at your organization that I could talk to that could help me with this, the person who had given me like two sentences in three emails back and forth total suddenly reached out to someone else to get this information cc’d to me. So I had like three more email contacts for people and the name of the person in that department, but if I hadn’t asked this person, despite the way that back and forth was feeling … I think a lot of women would have maybe not taken that step forward and asked. And so I just want to ask anyway. Even if you’re getting dismissed. Ask for more information. They’re not going to call security on you if you’re polite.

Jennifer: 22:18 Maybe what comes across as dismissive is they’re feeling that they don’t really have anything to offer in that conversation. So when you ask them if there is someone who could help, they are suddenly very eager to help you out because that is something they can do. I think, especially people in healthcare, they want to fix things. That’s their MO. They want to help. So I can see how it could come across as dismissive when they’re feeling stuck in a conversation that they don’t know how to really respond to. So maybe that’s part of it, but it is always a good thing in so many areas to ask. I think that comes up in every level of marketing, frankly, which is ask your audience what they are wanting. Ask your customers what they want next or what was helpful to them and what wasn’t. The more you ask, the more you can adapt and perfect.

Sarah: 23:12 Write it down, right? This is something I do now that I didn’t do as diligently early on, but investors and other customers want a specific story. So if I can say this title said this and this person said this, that means a lot. But more importantly you’re gathering that to look for those common patterns and trends in your market. You start to see “I talked to this many RNs in ER and they’re all saying this versus the RNs in pediatrics. You learn a lot, but a lot of people don’t. They don’t write it down if it disagrees with what they think, they kind of edit it in their mind a little bit or dismiss it. Don’t do that. Believe your customers when you’re talking to them.

Jennifer: 23:58 That’s a beautiful way of putting it because I think sometimes it can be very easy to listen for where they’re agreeing with what we already want them to say. The trick is to listen for the things they’re saying that are different and then expand to include or adapt. To focus on what they’re telling us is important to them. That’s how you grow.

Sarah: 24:20 Yeah. And that’s, that’s the biggest strength that I’ve been able to bring into this process. But it’s hard because they’re not used to getting software built that way for them.

Jennifer: 24:32 No. And I think that’s one of the main reasons why people are so frustrated with so much digital technology in health care … “cough” … EHR … “cough” … a lot of struggles.

Sarah: 24:45 Again, it comes back to there’s just not enough listening and communication between the technologies and all of the people in the healthcare system. On the healthcare side, they need to let the technologists be the experts in the technology, as well.

Jennifer: 25:04 Yes, and that can be very hard for someone who is usually the expert to give space to. I think that the right conversation has to open up for people to feel comfortable stepping out of the expert role and allowing someone else to be in that. Yet, in the end, it can be very beneficial for them to do that.

Sarah: 25:23 Yeah, it’s going to be hard for everyone. The system needs a lot of trust. People haven’t had to interact in that way before so they’re all learning. Goodness knows, we’re on the Internet today, so we’re all learning at this accelerated pace. All of us.

Jennifer: 25:41 All of us. And it’s a fun ride. I think it’s amazing to see how you can take an idea about your own resume, your own experience, and then start talking with people and find out there’s this huge need and create a digital system that can address that and then put it into play for people to actually use. I think that’s tremendous. Sarah, it has been such a joy having you on this podcast. I am so glad that we’ve been able to talk about this. I hope you’ll come back another time and talk some more because I think that talent management is something that is very intriguing and is going to be something that we’re all going to want to learn more about. I appreciate learning how you’ve brought this into being and the trials and tribulations of launching a startup. So thank you.

Sarah: 26:32 Thank you so much. And I love talking to you. So we will catch up on the podcast or off because you know, we’ll go longer if we have the time.

Jennifer: 26:41 Yes, we will. And for everyone listening, believe me, you and I could talk for hours but we’re trying to be kind and rein it in. And for all our audience out there, you can learn more about Sarah’s work at Sarah, is Sarah Worthy, if you missed the beginning of the intro, she’s the CEO at Door Space, which is a digital talent management system that specializes in the needs of healthcare systems and healthcare professionals. And I am your host, Jennifer Michelle, of Michelle Marketing Strategies, where I specialize in helping health care tech and provider organizations get more leads and grow their businesses. Thank you all for listening. Catch you next time!