Episode 55

Driving Meaningful, Measurable Outcomes

with Stephen Beeson, M.D.
Episode hosted by: Tarun Kapoor, M.D.

November 29, 2022

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Stephen Beeson, M.D.
Founder & CEO, Practicing Excellence

Stephen Beeson, M.D. is founder and CEO of Practicing Excellence. He is a nationally recognized speaker, physician, and author whose life mission is to coach and develop clinicians to be their best. Dr. Beeson started his career as a family medicine physician with the Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego. During his career, Dr. Beeson was tasked to coach, develop, and engage clinicians to help improve both the clinician and patient experience. Dr. Beeson received a bachelor’s in Biochemistry and an M.D. from University of California, San Diego.



The most meaningful things in life, I would say money's not the top 10. It's about the difference that you make, the relationships that you develop, the people that you love.



Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. I’m Tarun Kapoor, your host for Day Zero. Very excited to introduce Dr. Stephen Beeson, the founder, CEO of Practicing Excellence. Without further ado, I’m gonna let introduce Stephen, introduce himself as to what he does at Practicing Excellence, and then we’ll start getting to his story as a founder, Stephen.

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Well, thank you TK, and delighted to be here and Give you a little bit of background. I’m a physician, family medicine physician, and so consider my identity to be in the exam room. Father of two grown kids now and two Aussie doodles one of which has been in our house for. Two days getting up at 3:00 AM , that’s like having a newborn. And yeah I’ve been living in an adventure of starting a new digital enterprise called practicing excellence, which is, has been a wild run.

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: All right, so practicing excellence. I’ve had the opportunity to interface with you and learn more about it, but part of the audience tell us the story behind what does it do and what’s the objective?

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Yeah, so I’ll give you a little of the background [00:01:00] story a little of the context of where it came from and we’ll talk about what it is. But the highlight is it’s a digital solution that develops skills in healthcare. To drive meaningful change and outcomes. And people might think, how did that happen, how do you go from managing a 2,400 patient panel to doing that? And I gotta tell you, it was never my plan. My plan was to see patients all day, every day for 35 years and call it a day, you know? And I finished residency at University of California San Diego in 1994. And joined the Sharp Re Steeley Medical Group, a part of Sharp Healthcare. And in 2001, our group made a commitment to become better better for patients, better for physicians, better for nurses, better for care team members, and to culturally and operationally and rich the organization. We were struggling a bit in terms of how patients saw us and how care team members experienced their work [00:02:00] life. So we had high attrition. We had relatively high disengagement and we had patient experience at the bottom decile in a very competitive region. So we made this commitment called the Sharp Experience based upon Joe Pine’s book, the Experience Economy, to transform the experience for patients and care team members. And I was appointed to be the physician leader, director at the medical group level to coach, train, and engage clinicians to actively contribute to this mission and. And that’s really when it all began. I began the process of figuring out how do we develop clinicians so they contribute to something meaningful to make the group better. And so really began the process of coaching myself. How do I become better for the patients that I take care of? And it was funny that the first thing I did as now is. In, in this coaching endeavor was to ask about 50 [00:03:00] patients. How do you describe the best clinician that you’ve ever known and met? And the same patterns came about again and again. I want a doctor that listens to me, that cares about me, that includes me, that explains things in a way that I can understand. And it was the same things again, that again, and again. So then I thought, you know, how do we become up with simple skills that allowed those sentiments to manifest? I began to research and deploy and try and pdsa, if you will, my own personal coaching journey of becoming better for the patients that I took care of, and was able to achieve the 99th percentile for patient experience without spending any more time over the next few years. And so doing things differently was rendering compelling outcomes, but that’s not why I chose to do what I’m doing now. It was basically what it did. to become the kind of clinician that I always wanted and hoped to become, to be a difference maker in this healing life. And so this process was [00:04:00] replicated by other clinicians becoming better for the patients that we serve, and colleagues that are elbow and those that we lead Creates this incredible. And purpose and impact and resilience in what has now become a very burdened profession. And so over the course of time, the medical group was able to go from bottom decile to top decile and quality and metrics and value and patient experience and, you know, turnover and all the other things over time. And one of our principal interventions was developing people to become better to contribute to our mission and. 10 years later sitting in a Starbucks thinking to myself, gosh, coaching does work. Developing people that become their best works in super compelling ways. But it was super hard meaning it was very analog. A lot of driving and workshops and handouts and PDFs and all that kind of stuff, and it’s very hard to sustain and scale. So thinking in a Starbucks, I thought, how might we use technology [00:05:00] to power this? And that’s around 2012, 13. That idea came about and that’s when practicing excellence was born. Got the company funded and. Made some near fatal mistakes along the way. But now at 2022 have a very exciting journey of developing care team members to deliver better care in a way that drives meaningful, measurable outcomes, and more importantly, creates a sense of purpose and impact. And being the kind of care team member, I always hope for my hope that I would become,

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: Thank you so much for sharing. I mean, there’s a lot to unpack here. The couple themes that immediately kind of came out, and especially, you know, as we talked to our listen. Especially we’re interested in the world of the founder the mentality of the founder. You found a problem that didn’t have a easy solution necessarily, and but it was, I think what I’m hearing is it’s a problem that really mattered and it, and actually [00:06:00] what I’m hearing is that it actually mattered to two groups, two target groups, the actual patient, consumer. But also the clinician consumer you were solving. And then I think you said something that was really magical in there. It didn’t, it wasn’t necessarily a takeaway in order to make the experience better for the patient consumer. You actually found a way of doing it such that it didn’t create more burden for the clinician consumer. Is that a fair assessment?

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Yeah it is. And I, you, the problem was very evident in terms of what patients were experiencing, in terms of what was happening behind the exam room door. And there was just tons of opportunities to help clinicians become better. I also, the saw the challenge around clinicians are now accountable for things that they don’t even know that they’re not doing. You know, they’re getting these individually attributed patient experience scores without tools to improve. And organizations were looking to transform how care was being delivered without developing the people and the skills that would allow that to manifest. So it, it was plain and [00:07:00] clear to me that the opportunity of creating something that allowed people to become better in their work and to do so in a way that gives them joy, contentment, and purpose. Stay where they are was, you know, what I saw as an incredible opportunity. And so I had to figure out what am I gonna be when I grow up . Cause I was in a very successful clinical practice at the time.

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: Yeah okay, so you find, I mean, the special opportunity, right? You’re. Two problems at the same time, potentially. Right. You’re like the consumer experience, but also to make clinicians better. And if you’re better at what you do and you enjoy what you do better, you wanna continue to do it. Is this dual very special opportunity, but it’s also an opportunity that historically would be thought. I was like, this is really slow at one at a time. At the, I think you mentioned it like lots of PDFs. Tell us a little bit more. How were you able to find a digital solution and it, and is it like digital over analog or [00:08:00] what has been the way you’ve been trailed to

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Right. So as we’ve launched practicing excellence as, again, as a sort of a technology powered skill building platform we had to learn what are the things that were important for organizations that could allow them to execute measurable outcomes And were, the clinicians could use it and say, this is super helpful. Is helping me become better in ways that are meaningful to me. The things that we learned are, number one, it had to be quick. Clinicians, nurses, whoever’s participating in the learning pathway, have zero time. So we built a micro-learning platform built upon the premise of five minutes a week. It had to scale, meaning every. Everybody can learn and grow and participate in the mastery journey of becoming better on the things that matter. So it wasn’t remediation or reactive. It was a proactive deployment of people development to execute an organizational priority. And so it had to scale to everybody [00:09:00] because everybody had to learn the same thing at the same time, to create this synchronicity of understanding from a shared source. It had to map to organizational priorities. So some organizations are about the wellness of their teams, others are about building a sense of team collaboration. Others are about the patient experience. And so we had to build. Programs, if you will, within practicing excellence that would map to specific organizational priorities. It had to work. So anything that got inside had to be evidence derived. Meaning what is the evidence that the coaching tip, if you will, and the micro-learning content within practicing excellence works. So we had to, you know, we had a whole research team that is identifying things and research that other people have done to say. In the coaching tip has been tested and proven somewhere to be of value. You know, those are some of the things that we kind of learned and built into the technology itself. And it’s deployed. It’s an app essentially that drips content to people to build skills that map to an [00:10:00] organizational priority, but it’s designed to be individual actions that are enriching for the individual care team. When they put it into play,

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: So you it, it comes together. Lots of hard work. To get there. And it’s a side of, this is a side job, a side, right? And you’re learning how to do this on your own and then you come to realization, I think this is an opportunity to go bigger with this, but you are a practicing physician and there’s risk for taking a shot at this. Tell we, we talk to founders all the time and say, yeah, I took the risk. It seems to me, and as also as a physician, the risk of giving. A clinical practice and taking a shot, was that harder you think, than the typical founder or what helped you take that extra risk?

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: I was so excited about the prospect of helping clinicians and care team members become better through my personal experience of what I [00:11:00] had witnessed in our own group. That it was it was a real calling for me, but it was scary as hell because my kids were in middle school. We had massively underfunded our 5 29. I mean, no doubt they both went to private four year colleges. And you know what that is like , you know? And I said to my wife, I said I feel like I have to go do this. I, and so I sat up many sleepless nights and talked to my wife, and talked to my friends and my colleagues and I said, if I’m ever gonna do this can’t live a life of regret of wondering what could have been had I you know, not decided to go for it and found a new company that could solve a challenge that I was so passionately and deeply connected to. And so I made the decision and cut my salary by about 80. [00:12:00] So,

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: And the kids are still going to school and your family mortgage to school there and all of that is still

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Oh, it gets worse. It gets worse. So a few year, yeah, we got the company funded, but you gotta make money, you gotta have more money come in than goes out Right. To be profitable. And we were like, not even all we were doing was spending money after our initial funding. And it was a good solid three years before we got a. Because we had to figure out was our technology, was our content. How do we support you? You know, there was just so many things that we had to figure out that, you know, just took time and we ran outta money. And at the time I didn’t even tell my wife and I was writing checks, personal checks to support the company. And it was well into six figures. When all was said and. and I thought to myself, well, I’m, well, I hope this works out because failure’s gonna be ugly. And then the prospect of going back to Sharp with my, having failed in [00:13:00] this bold, ambitious endeavor was. Unacceptable to me, . So it was a combination of ignorance, not knowing how hard it was gonna be pride that this is gonna work no matter what. Combined with terror of. What’s gonna happen to my family by virtue of my pursuit of this thing. And so there was the rollercoaster in the first three or four years where I wasn’t sure it was gonna make it and whether it was gonna play out like I hoped. But it did.

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: And when it was the darker nights, right? The day, the sleepless nights. Yeah. What, because people were listening. People who are taking shots at founding companies are going to run. It’s not, if you’re gonna run into it, you’re going to run into it and it may be a lot more than you ever reckoned. What got you.

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Yeah. It, it’s a great question and I think everybody needs to have. A chance to remember why they are here and to think back in those dark moments. Those [00:14:00] those moments of doubt and those moments of where we’re just, I’m in a posture. I don’t know what I’m doing and everybody’s gonna figure it out. I, they’re gonna say, you left this for that, and now you’ve accrued debt and you’ve got nothing to show for it, and you burn through your investor’s money. Nice job and I just couldn’t have that story be, but it, that cloud it, it can keep you up at night. But the thing that I went to, to get me through that was just remembering what my experience was like in terms of becoming the kind of clinician that I was super proud of. Remembering what my colleagues would say when they learn simple things about how do they impact their team and how do they encourage others, how do they connect with patients and become. , you know, it’s just a force for good for the patients, for their teams, for their organizations, and how awesome that felt. And and to gather stories and feedback from people that were using an early version of what we were doing to say, [00:15:00] you know, this is I forgot. Wow, I was doing this, but this thing that you developed is reminding me of why I’m here. And it got me through a dark night myself. And you know, harkening back to those purposeful moments and why this mattered and why I took the leap at the beginning was what got me through some, you know, pretty rough.

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: And see when we were talking earlier, you say That the, it’s still, there were still these obstacles, there were still these really tough decisions came along even when you got past the initial piece of where you started to get some business coming in and some contracts, and actually you’re getting success share a little bit of,

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Oh

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: it’s still not done right. The tough calls are still not done.

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: I always consider the business life cycle to be, you know, you go from zygote to, you know, the tomb, right? I mean, there’s that entire process and I would consider ourselves to be like in third grade now. In that cycle. So [00:16:00] we’re breathing oxygen and we’re growing and we have friends and people believe in us and we’re starting to form our personality. And you know, so in that journey there are things and big decisions you have to make regarding what bets you’re going to. To make and strategic moves to optimize your impact and your growth. And, you know, couple of the tough things we went through that were actually tougher than writing the personal checks was we’ve been through a couple of acquisition attempts. The idea of technology enabled microlearning. Care team community building skills to drive meaningful outcomes in the healthcare sector is a compelling idea. And so with that comes people knocking on your door and But at the same time you have something that you want to create a, a difference. You want to be able to make in the world and stay true to what you stand for and why you did this in the first place. And [00:17:00] sometimes the spirit of acquisition is we’re going to acquire you to differentiate us in the marketplace so we can fuel greater revenue in a service that we’re. Which is not wrong, and I don’t blame anybody for being like that, but it’s, you know, we want to change healthcare fundamentally for care teams and people who mass massively sacrificed to be a part of it and to drive meaningful transformative outcomes for patients and organizations. Turning to say practicing excellence helped us become better by building the skills of our people to do things in patient connection and team collaboration and leadership effectiveness. We want. That’s what we wanna do and become. And so we went through a couple of, again, near acquisitions and I knew that it wasn’t right and I, even though it would’ve been a lot of money, I realized that money is not what generates a sense at the end of the road, whenever that may be. You look over your shoulder, it’s not your pile of accordance. [00:18:00] It’s the impact that you’ve made, the purpose that you’ve lived in. Have you made the world a better place? Have you lived in accordance with your fundamental beliefs? And if you could put your head down at the end of the run and say, I did those things awesome. And if you make a pilot acorns along the way, great. But if you don’t, it’s okay. But the acquisition attempts were probably the hardest thing for me and thank goodness they didn’t happen. And so yeah, we just keep marching on every single day is a new challenge,

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: I I think that point that you bring up is so valuable for our listeners to think through. I mean that’s always considered a marker or surrogate of success acquisition. I started something, it was acquired, I was successful. And I think, you know, what you’re challenging all of us to think about is what is your purpose, both personally and then professionally. And just when you go into it, make sure you know why you’re going into [00:19:00] it. And as long as you have that, you can get through almost anything else if I’m hearing you.

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Oh my God, it’s so true. I can’t, you know, I know a lot of wealthy physicians who are clinically depressed. Again, there’s nothing wrong with money. It gives you experiences and opportunities to do amazing things with people you love. And again, there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m not Pollyanna, but the most meaningful things in life, I would say money is not in the top 10. It’s about the difference that you make and the relationships that you develop the people that you love and helping and lifting others around you to become an encourager, to bring hope and belief to those that are struggling. I mean, those are. . Those are great gifts, and if you can find a line of work that has that opportunity I happen to do it as founder of practicing excellence, but I began to, I learned to do it as a clinician and I would say practicing excellence is about taking action to [00:20:00] allow those moments of impact and purpose to manifest and. And so I always encourage clinicians when I, when we ever have a one-on-one coaching circumstance, I always will say, tell me the kind of clinician you want to become. And we want to help you become everything that you hope for yourself and when people become everything that they hope to be in this life as a husband, a wife, a mother, father, sibling friend, clinician, or whatever you may be. I am being everything I hope to be. You know, that’s a great place to be.

Tarun Kapoor, M.D.: Stephen again, absolute pleasure and honor. And for our audience, Dr. Stephen Beeson, the founder, CEO of Practicing Excellence and man who’s pretty grounded and driven as well as knows his purpose, and I think that’s a huge lesson for all of us, Stephen. Thank you.

Stephen Beeson, M.D.: Thank you TK.

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