Interview with Glenn Gale
Director, Canada/Caribbean IBM Watson Health
by Todd Stepanuik
TS: Provide an overview of your background and career.
GG: I began my career in healthcare in 1986 in Northwestern Ontario. At that time, I was employed as a biomedical/electronic engineer performing quality assurance, repair, and light design modification in medical imaging.
In 1990, I moved to Saskatchewan as Territory Manager for a modality and imaging solutions firm.
Then in 1996, I was offered a role as a Project Executive in Saint John, New Brunswick. I enjoyed the clients plus the project enough to join the organization where I served as Regional Administrative Director until 2006.
I then joined IBM Canada in strategic growth initiative focused on healthcare across Canada and the Caribbean.
TS: What has been one of the most important lessons you have learned during your career?
GG: There are many as anyone can imagine over 33 years. And, in my opinion, all lessons are important to build the experiential knowledge that shape how we weigh decisions in the latter stages of our careers.
That said, let me attempt to explain an experience that may demonstrate a lesson, an epiphany, or humility. The service I administered in New Brunswick touched the majority inpatient, facility based, care and most outpatient, community, based care. That service was spread out over 13 facilities from a small island to the urban centers.
My lesson – just how complex the healthcare system is and how a decision, no matter how small, can have very large effects in areas I could not have imagined.
TS: How has or how does ACHE help you address the challenges you face?
GG: ACHE is a source of knowledge, education, mentoring, and networking. Regardless of level or position in my career. ACHE provides access to information and people that I can utilize for research to a question or a conversation for experiential knowledge. While a challenge may be new to me, chances are an ACHE member has had a similar experience that can share how they worked through a challenge.
TS: Peering into the future of AI and IBM Watson what are some things the industry can count on happening within the next decade and what impact will Watson and AI have on the sector?
Let me qualify by saying that I cannot comment on IBM and Watson but rather I will comment on my experience(s) and where I personally believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will have the most dramatic effect in healthcare.
GG: There are two significant challenges as I see it in healthcare service delivery where AI can have profound affect:
- Healthcare is an information intensive industry (nothing moves without information passing from one care giver to another), and with the steady to exponential growth of the information that care givers must cope, AI tools can assist in averting the data tsunami that caregivers are facing. To put that in real world context, industry estimates that a clinician can spend >60% of their time searching for or dealing with information to make an unformed decision. In the industrial age(s), anytime there is a medium to large gap in demand versus capacity, technology and tools assisted to close that gap. AI will be the tool. How we use and deploy those tools is TBD, as we do know that workflows vary, as do personal preferences. These tools will need to be more flexible and adaptable.
- Rural health service delivery is being challenged with recruitment and retainment across every discipline. My personal opinion is that unless there is a strong support network for rural practice, the situation will continue to be more and more challenged. Expert advice and access to expert device is an area where AI can provide interesting potential. I believe that these AI tools increasing confidence in clinical decision-making coupled a professional network, again will bridge a gap and have a positive influence on rural car delivery.
TS: What has been your most rewarding experience?
GG: It’s difficult to state just one, many rewarding experiences over the 33 years. In light of indecision, let me briefly state two.
First, mentoring is the most rewarding day to day. What I enjoy the most is listening to a mentee and their passion to succeed in their career. It is most rewarding to see that success with the knowledge that is some small way, I made a contribution.
Second, is sharing my career in healthcare with my daughter and today (May 10) I get to see her graduate from medical school on her way to residency in Radiation Oncology. That is truly rewarding to see her successes, hands down!
TS: How have you seen the healthcare management field change during your career?
GG: The positives I have seen is the matixed organization (program management) which built a more collaborative approach to healthcare management. Several management methodologies moved in and out of the healthcare systems based on private sector management practices. I have a ton of respect for healthcare managers in Canada; they have had to cope with many restructuring cycles in the last 2 decades.
TS: Who have been your mentors?
GG: I have been fortunate to have had great mentors over the years. My first experience with a mentor/mentee relationship was in Public Sector. Ken was my VP, coach, mentor, and cheerleader. We talked about all aspects of our professions and became very close friends.
My latest mentor is a Senior Executive who provides valuable advice around day-to-day operations and career advancement for the team.
I think the key learning here is to keep seeking mentoring. Any experience sharing that a person can garner is always helpful.
TS: What lessons have you learned as an executive leader?
GG: Being in a leadership position is an absolute privilege. Seek input and guidance from every possible source to help shape or substantiate a decision. Make a decision with confidence and commitment.
Change is hard. Change takes time, patience and commitment. Have a plan and stay within the boundaries of the plan to effectively maneuver through changing times
TS: What is the best advice you ever received?
GG: This is based off General Swartskoff’s motto, if you give people the knowledge, tools, and leadership support to succeed, when you assign tasks, they will find a way to successful execution.
TS: What advice would you give to young careerists starting their career in healthcare administration? (career advancement lessons, strategies, and leadership advice)
GG: When I started my career, healthcare was “the” preferred sector to start a profession. During the cuts and consolidation of the late 90s and early 20s, healthcare was less attractive and our organizations public and private feel that even today.
My advice is fear not, the future in healthcare is brighter. We are on the cusp of fundamentally changing the way people and technology interact in healthcare.
From an administrative point of view, when there is fundamental change about to happen, which we believe it will, the healthcare system requires leadership that is knowledgeable, respectful, and innovative. These qualities will ensure that the best is extracted from the human resources and the technology that make up the complex system of health.
Advice I would offer is think as a systemically. Even go beyond Ministries or Departments of Health to the other government services that affect health services delivery. It’s quite enlightening to see where the ripples in the pond spread out…