Mark Johnson, President and CEO of BetterMed, recently spoke at a national training session of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Innovators Network. He was able to not only draw upon his experiences leading an emerging urgent care brand but also from his years as an executive at Fortune 500 companies.
“They brought together innovative folks from hospitals across the country to hear ideas, to hear new ways and concepts of thinking about ways that they can improve delivery of their services of veterans,” said Johnson. As the son of an army veteran who received excellent medical and hospice care at the VA Hospital in Louisville, speaking to the veteran’s network held special appeal. “When I had the opportunity to kind of give back, so to speak, I jumped at the chance.”
Individuals from 33 VA hospitals around the country took part in the three-day conference in Richmond, held from Jan. 23-25th at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center. The VA Innovators Network began in 2010 with the intent of identifying, testing and evaluating new approaches to challenges. The VA has a long history of fostering healthcare innovations—from implantable cardiac pacemakers to the nicotine patch for smokers.
“They specifically asked me to talk to the group about insights, and how to use insights to drive innovation,” said Johnson, who received his MBA from the University of Chicago and previously held executive finance, strategy, marketing and innovation leadership roles with global branded consumer products and packaging companies, including Sara Lee, PepsiCo and MWV (formerly MeadWestvaco) before coming to BetterMed.
Insights require not only external research and studies but also interacting directly with consumers, he said. For instance, while leading the development of innovative packaging solutions for beverage products in India, Johnson visited the country many times to get to know the consumers through focus groups as well as home visits and shopalongs. To get to true insights, he said, “you have to go deeper.”
Although he has only been at BetterMed for about a year, he enjoys learning about the patients. According to Johnson, they appreciate the expertise of BetterMed’s emergency room-trained practitioners as well as its extended hours. The urgent care center has six locations in Central Virginia that are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week.
He also looks for collaborative innovations to better address the needs of patients, pointing to BetterMed’s partnership with BrainScope, a technology that allows the urgent care practitioners to better assess concussions.
“It’s much more convenient and at a much lower cost than having a patient go have a CT-scan in the ER,” he said. “BrainScope is an innovative technology that we see as allowing us to continue down with our mission of saving the patient money and providing a much better overall experience than they can get somewhere else.”