Mark Kestner: Redefining Benchmarks in the Telemedicine Space
We live in a world where business leaders with visionary ideas are stirring paradigm shifts and raising the benchmarks of innovation and progress for others around the world.
These leaders exhibit sheer grit in the face of adversities, incessantly explore new possibilities, and find ways to metamorphose into better versions of themselves. They are always on the lookout for creative solutions and opportunities to reimagine legacy processes, to stand out, and to sustain a competitive edge.
In Mark Kestner’s dictionary, these disruptive leaders are individuals in a room with crazy ideas. People who continue to apply pressure as needed, to keep the winds of change flowing. And Mark, being one such disruptive leader, focuses on devising long-term solutions and taking people where they need to be.
As the Chief Innovation Officer at MediGuru, Mark works closely with the internal leaders of the company to bring his crazy ideas to life. He also believes that it is his team that can work on the idea and his role is to incrementally move the group to a better place. According to him the team can’t apply force to the crazy idea unless there is a leader in the room supervising and challenging the status quo.
Let us delve into Mark’s journey through his many roles as an engineer, a surgeon, a businessman, and ultimately, a disruptive leader.
An Ascending Graph
Mark Kestner grew up in a small town, and worked in family businesses, including motels, bars, rentals, amongst others. Coming from a family of engineers, he had enough clarity regarding his destiny and hence decided to pursue a 5-year Bioengineering degree.
At college, a professor advised him to apply to a medical school; this would help him secure a position to ultimately obtain a PhD. With curiosity tugging his sleeve, Mark went through with the application in his 4th year to see how rigorous it would be.
At the time, the University of Michigan was granting admission to students from the upper peninsula in hopes of them returning to practice in rural Michigan. It was the time when Mark started to feel changes in his plans and a road to the medical world.
During the initial days, Mark couldn’t consider himself a good fit for med school even though he was doing well. But he was compelled to continue school as he was recently married with his wife working two jobs. Not to mention, he was far in debt to consider leaving med school and finishing his engineering degree. So, he finished med school and got into a residency in General Surgery.
While Mark was ready to start his career in medicine, he wasn’t sure about practicing it in Michigan. Thus, he ventured out to a local recruiter and joined the Army during his fourth year of residency. It was the time when he knew nothing about the Army, its orders, weapons, but he ultimately went to training and subsequently to Germany with his family.
Since then, Mark learned to love medicine and deliver high-quality care for patients and families. His work expanded and saw the light of military, universities, integrated delivery systems, community-based health systems, and private practice as a trauma critical care surgeon. He also climbed the ranks, including Chief of Surgery, Chief Quality Officer, and Chief Medical Officer. Afterward, Mark witnessed a gap in the industry that led him to walk away from medical practices.
He was tired of working in a ‘broken’ system and felt that he needed to understand how to make healthcare work better for patients and providers. Therefore, he put work into his MBA and spent a year at Gallup understanding engagement and how physicians need to lead the way for change.
At Mediguru, Mark is now at the center of telemedicine, supporting the company’s mission of providing customized and branded telemedicine solutions as part of their virtual care practice. The company also offers a strategic long-term telemedicine solution that strengthens the foundations of virtual care practice.
With the company, Mark has paved the way for revolutionizing telemedicine solutions that were not present before or even during the pandemic. He says, “Most of these solutions were not thoughtfully designed for the intended purpose of care delivery in a fee-for-service business model. We also have areas that were either underfunded or ignored in dire need for virtual solutions. What I saw was the ability to redefine virtual care, not just telemedicine.”
And to redefine virtual care, Mark Kestner has steered Mediguru to map the workflow of the present state from the patient’s perspective and all members of the health team’s perspective. His focus is on understanding the process and giving a customized solution. “This is not just physician video visits added to the electronic health record. It focuses on the optimal experience of the patient, physician, and healthcare team,” Mark explains.
At Mediguru, not only is he the Chief Innovation Officer, but Mark is also the only clinician on the executive team. As such, he has helped the firm to explore and identify care delivery processes in traditional clinic settings but also in palliative care, hospice, home care, Federally Qualified Health Care Clinics, Physical and Occupational Therapy, among others. Perceiving each segment of the industry to become virtual, Mark also supports the company to provide customers with a solution that adds value.
Hence, Mediguru is deeply involved in constantly innovating along with the customers to incrementally change the model of care delivery. Mark and his team do not perceive the solution to be only software-based. For them, it promotes a behavioral change solution supported by the software.
“This is not an ‘install and call us if it breaks’ solution. This is hopefully a long-term trusting relationship of making the process of care delivery for everyone on the team better. The behavioral change component takes time and if done correctly is an iterative process,” Mark elaborates.
All in all, through his experience and expertise, Mark enables Mediguru to revolutionize virtual care with his extensive experience in engineering (mapping and designing), medicine (clinical workflows), business (improve the bottom-line), and engagement (making the delivery of care simpler and giving leadership tools to manage the workforce).
Mark Kestner believes that one of the most impactful trends in healthcare during the pandemic has been the movement to physician employment. With that shift, physicians are becoming members of different teams and must learn to play to the strength of the team members, not just other physicians.
In such an arrangement, it is imperative that the manager at the helm must receive frequent feedback, and that too supported with data. Mark also emphasizes on how this manager must be readily available and respected by the direct reporters
He says, “Traditionally if a physician got feedback, it was from the medical staff infrastructure and usually focused on incident reports or quality outliers. That infrastructure supports the private practice model and does not address the engagement of the employed physician workforce.”
Engagement is another significant aspect that has become the utmost priority in Mark’s eyes. According to him, a clear reporting structure needs to be understood and the said manager of the physicians must understand how to engage the workforce by being available and giving personalized feedback.
With all the observations, Mark has assisted Mediguru to provide numerous ways to engage physicians. In his working style, the disruptive leader firstly talks about mapping the exact process. And for complete coverage, the healthcare providers must identify the design team with physicians as a member of the team. Herein, the result is to leverage the skills of every member of the team and to make the process simpler.
“The software is designed, implemented, and initially tested in a smaller area of the organization. If it fails to do what it is intended to do, it is diffused throughout the organization. This engages the physicians because they were a part of the solution,” he expressed.
According to him, this new process improves the efficiency of the team and individual members. On the complemented side, the associated data provides individual feedback to physicians which further engages them with the organization.
Mark Kestner was privileged to receive support from his family in all his professional years. His family was there for him through all the challenges he came across, whether they were from engineering school, medical school, residency, the army, the fellowships, or his multiple moves across the US in diverse medical systems.
However, he concluded on his own that the traditional systems are slow to change and can only tolerate the ‘crazy’ ideas for so long. So once that realization hits, people need to understand that their work is done, and they need to move on.
This is the same advice that Mark bestows upon aspiring and emerging leaders in the healthcare space. He advises them to channel their energy into questioning the status quo. Anyone can point out the problems, but it is up to disruptive leaders to provide solutions. Further, his motivational words emphasize on taking feedback and adapting to situations and opinions respectively. “Learn when enough is enough for both you and those around you,” he asserts.
And as the final step, Marks wants aspiring leaders to create a catalog of stories. He says, “People love leaders that can tell relevant stories to connect the dots. It disarms them, they listen and better retain the concepts you are conveying.”
Premonitions of a Bright Future
Being an industry veteran, Mark efficiently comprehends how evolving and fast-paced the medical world can be. Therefore, he is fully aware of the developments and understands that to survive in this cut-throat competition, the solutions Mediguru provides must continue to stay agile. Not only that, but there must also be constant innovation when it comes to the services in order to cater to each and every need of the customers. Mark has empowered Mediguru to do just that and the future looks bright for both him and the company on this front.