PODCAST #19. Where Does Problem Solving and Product Management Intersect? HealthTech PM Shares Some Insights
In this episode, we had a chat with Rany El Diwany, who’s the Director, Product Management at Athena Health, about handling payments from patients and dealing with insurance issues.
Rany told us about how problem-solving and managing products are related. He also talked about the usual hurdles he comes across in his job managing products.
The article below presents a summary of our conversation.
Companies’ Endless Pursuit of Solutions without Problem Clarity
In product management, the focus is not solely on building software but rather on solving business problems. As a product manager, your role is to lead a team in understanding and addressing these key problems. One effective approach is to explain the problem in a simplified manner, ensuring everyone involved shares a common understanding of the issue.
“Always start by making sure you have a full understanding of the problem before even getting to the very first solution that you want to think through.”Rany El Diwany – Director of Product Management at Athena Health
However, it is crucial to remember that before jumping into solutions, you must thoroughly understand the problem. Take a step back and examine the problem from different angles, exploring its nuances and complexities. This is where the double diamond principle comes into play.
Exploring the Double Diamond Principle
The double diamond principle is a framework that consists of two diamonds, each representing a specific phase: discovery and definition.
The first diamond, the discovery phase, involves gathering a wide range of qualitative and quantitative information. You’ll want to collect customer feedback, stay informed about industry trends, and analyze relevant data. This phase aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the problem space.
During the discovery phase, patterns and recurring themes will emerge from the gathered information. These indications of convergence signal that you are getting closer to identifying the core aspects of the problem. It’s important to pay attention to these signals as they will guide your next steps.
Convergence leads you into the second diamond, the definition phase. At this point, you organize the collected information into different work streams, horizons, or categories. With a clearer picture of the problem, you can begin prioritizing the identified areas. Prioritization is especially critical in complex domains like healthcare, where limited resources must be allocated effectively.
Once you’ve prioritized the areas, you transition from the discovery phase to the definition phase. You select the highest priority item for further analysis and solution development during this stage. While other areas are temporarily set aside, they remain in your peripheral vision for future consideration.
How to Navigate the Problem Space
“If you haven’t aligned with what you’re trying to solve and agreed on what the definition of success is to start, you’re certainly gonna arrive at an end state where not everyone is happy.”Rany El Diwany – Director of Product Management at Athena Health
Mr. Diwany understands the significance of grasping and aligning with the problem at hand. He believes that measuring success and achieving alignment among team members heavily relies on a solid understanding of the problem being solved. Moving forward as a cohesive unit is challenging without a shared comprehension of the problem and its definition.
At Athena, Rany‘s preferred method for building alignment is by utilizing pitch decks. These decks serve as comprehensive presentations that outline the why, how, and overall plan for addressing a specific problem. They provide a foundation for sharing information and conducting readouts with stakeholders, including leadership, customers, and partners.
In Mr. Diwany‘s view, alignment is not a one-time event but an ongoing effort throughout the product development journey. Regular check-ins, discussions, and feedback loops are essential to maintaining alignment and adjusting the course if needed. By continuously revisiting and refining the understanding of the problem, the product team can stay on track and adapt as necessary to ensure that their solutions effectively address the needs of the business and its stakeholders.
By thoroughly understanding the problem space before diving into solutions, you establish a solid foundation for your work as a product manager. This approach allows for a more focused and effective product development process. You can confidently explore solutions, knowing that you clearly understand the problem you’re trying to solve. This ultimately increases your chances of developing a successful product that addresses the needs of your customers and your business.
Strategies for Analyzing and Understanding Complex Problems
From Mr. Diwany‘s perspective, objectivity is a key principle when making decisions. Emotions should not drive choices; rather, data should be the guiding force. To achieve this, asking the right questions and gathering qualitative and quantitative data is crucial.
Identifying the broad categories of the problem is only the initial step. Delving deeper and analyzing the underlying layers is equally important. This can be achieved by utilizing well-known practices such as the “five whys” technique, which helps uncover the root causes and significance of the problem. Product managers can gain a clearer perspective by breaking down complex issues into simpler components and developing an intimate understanding of the problem’s intricacies.
Effective communication is paramount throughout this process. As a product manager, you are responsible for conveying the problem to various stakeholders, including customers, leaders, and team members such as engineers and UX professionals. The goal is to ensure everyone involved shares a common understanding of the problem. Any misalignment in problem perception can lead to challenges and hinder efforts to solve the problem effectively.
Product managers should actively evangelize their comprehension of the problem space to promote a shared understanding. Even in their absence, others discussing the initiatives should be able to explain them consistently and accurately. Ron emphasizes the importance of maintaining a shared language and perception, as it ensures everyone is on the same page and facilitates effective collaboration in solving the problem.
How to Unravel Bias and Build Effective Roadmaps
“Your roadmap should be problem-focused and not solution-focused, especially because you don’t know what you’re going to learn between now and something that you might have queued up.”Rany El Diwany – Director of Product Management at Athena Health
Maintaining a problem-focused approach is crucial once the discovery and definition phases are complete and pitch decks and roadmaps are being developed. Ron believes that roadmaps should revolve around the problems that need to be addressed rather than being fixated on specific solutions. This is because, throughout product development, new learnings and insights may emerge, potentially rendering previously planned solutions obsolete.
While it is possible to anticipate future problem areas and prioritize them in the roadmap, the exact solutions may not be known at that stage. As the work progresses and solutions are developed, Mr. Diwany emphasizes the importance of measuring their impact and assessing if they effectively address the critical aspects of the initiative. Defining appropriate metrics to validate the impact and success of the solutions becomes crucial in this context.
“Human bias is there, and it’s easy to get attached to a solution… you need to remove that layer of emotion from the equation and be confident in the metrics that tell a successful story.”Rany El Diwany – Director of Product Management at Athena Health
Rany believes that within the realm of product management, it is essential to constantly remind oneself about human bias. It’s natural to become attached to a particular solution and emotionally invested in its success. However, he emphasizes the need to remove emotion from the equation and instead focus on finding the right metrics to gauge success. If a solution fails to yield the desired results, it becomes necessary to pivot and adjust based on data-driven insights.
Similarly, Rany notes that while the agile framework is valuable, it is not a rigid recipe but rather a flexible framework that should be adapted to suit the unique needs of each project. These challenges highlight the complexities inherent in product management. He believes that by recognizing these challenges and remaining open to continuous learning and adaptation, product managers can navigate the dynamic landscape of their role and strive for success.
What Are the Main Drivers of Lack of Transparency Costs in Healthcare?
One of the significant challenges in the healthcare industry revolves around understanding how different insurance companies handle various scenarios. Mr. Diwany acknowledges that each insurance provider has its policies and rules, which adds complexity to building software solutions based on logical patterns. The diverse approaches required by different insurance companies make it difficult to achieve consistency. To tackle this issue, Ron emphasizes the importance of promoting transparency, especially for patients who often have limited visibility into the internal workings of healthcare.
“We want to get to the point where we have transparency… helping patients understand what costs may occur before they actually see the provider.”Rany El Diwany – Director of Product Management at Athena Health
Transparency is pivotal in helping patients understand and appreciate the information typically hidden from them. It involves providing patients with upfront cost information, enabling them to make informed decisions. Ron notes that healthcare’s lack of cost visibility sets it apart from other aspects of the US economy, where prices are known before purchasing a product or service. Building trust through transparency becomes crucial, as even professionals within the healthcare industry may have doubts about their healthcare bills.
Trust can be fostered by being clear and upfront with patients about the potential costs associated with their medical encounters. Establishing transparency and trust creates an environment where some of the challenges faced by healthcare practices can be addressed. Overcoming these barriers and transitioning to a system where patients are willing to make payments or down payments for services rendered requires a significant journey.
While progress and efforts are being made to establish transparency and trust, Rany acknowledges there is still a long way to go.
Mr. Diwany explains that several functional aspects are being improved within the focus area of cost transparency.
- One of these areas is insurance selection, which can be challenging due to the many insurance companies and the wide variety of insurance packages. Accurately identifying the appropriate insurance for each patient is crucial to ensure successful claims submission and payment.
- Patient eligibility is another key component of cost transparency, involving understanding copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, and out-of-pocket limits. Having this information is essential for estimating costs accurately.
In addition to cost transparency, Rany emphasizes the importance of enhancing payment options. This includes exploring various methods such as digital wallets and platforms like PayPal and introducing automated payment plans. Offering flexible payment options is particularly important for patients facing financial difficulties, allowing them to pay outstanding bills over time without significant financial strain.
Opportunities and Qualities for Success in HealthTech Companies
As a PM, you’ll collaborate with diverse teams, including developers, user experience experts, analysts, customers, and leadership.
The success of a product hinges on aligning all stakeholders toward solving the identified priority problem and achieving the desired metrics. Building strong relationships and working collaboratively with people from various backgrounds and roles are crucial skills for a PM.
At Athena, the company values respect and intelligence, regardless of cultural, ethnic, or sexual orientation differences. Therefore, having strong communication skills and the ability to work with diverse groups of people are vital in this role.
“Being a PM and then being a PM in the enterprise B2B space and healthcare, there’s definitely some additional work that goes into play. And it’s hard; it’s a hard job, but it’s rewarding.”Rany El Diwany – Director of Product Management at Athena Health
Rany highlights that introducing the healthcare dimension adds complexity to the PM role. Unlike the focus in some PM literature, which is often business-to-consumer (B2C), healthcare often involves business-to-business (B2B) interactions. PMs with experience in B2C and enterprise B2B environments understand the thoughtful coordination required when planning, building, and developing solutions.
Athena Health serves a significant number of healthcare providers, and any changes made to their workflows can substantially impact their business operations. Coordinating deployments and providing thorough training and insights to customers is critical to minimizing disruptions and ensuring smooth transitions. Being a PM in the enterprise B2B space within healthcare demands diligent efforts to ensure that solutions enhance workflows rather than hinder them.
While being a PM, particularly in the healthcare industry, comes with challenges, Ron also emphasizes the rewarding aspects of the role. Being a PM in the healthcare industry requires unique skills and a deep understanding of the importance of effective communication and collaboration in driving successful product development.
As a product manager at Athena, Rany is invested in driving company initiatives promoting healthcare transparency. He believes leveraging technology, data, and collaboration can make significant progress in this area. Athena is about creating a system where patients have full visibility, enabling them to make informed decisions and engage in proactive planning.
You Can Foster Psychological Safety With These Two Essentials
Psychological safety is crucial for effective teamwork and innovation. Creating an environment where everyone feels safe to contribute ideas, whether good or bad, fosters creativity and innovation. Mutual respect is key. Rather than an “us versus them” mentality, the focus should be on solving problems collectively.
“One of the most important things is psychological safety, right? No one is bringing a bad idea to the table.”Rany El Diwany – Director of Product Management at Athena Health
Building motivated and cohesive teams that enjoy working together and are enthusiastic about tackling challenges is essential. Encouraging open dialogue, valuing diverse perspectives, and creating a culture of psychological safety lay the foundation for successful problem-solving and driving innovation within the team.
Which Future Changes Should We Expect in Consumer Cost Management?
When it comes to healthcare practices, understanding and navigating costs can be complex. Practices have contracted rates with payers, but these contracts often involve intricate stipulations. For example, different charges may have different reimbursement percentages, or certain charges may not be reimbursed at all.
Helping practices gain a clear and simplified understanding of the contracted rates in various scenarios is a crucial first step. Currently, efforts are underway to provide practices with easier access to published information from payers.
While Medicare and Medicaid present additional complexities, simplifying the process for practice users to have transparent insights into contractual rates is considered a critical foundational milestone. This step will assist practices in managing costs more effectively and making informed decisions that will sustain them in the future.
Below are three major takeaways from our chat with Mr. Diwany:
- Thoroughly understand the problem before diving into solutions: Product managers must invest time in understanding the problem space from different angles before developing solutions.
- Transparency and cost management in healthcare: Cost transparency benefits patients and healthcare practices, leading to better financial experiences and streamlined operations.
- Psychological safety for effective teamwork and innovation: Creating an environment of psychological safety, encouraging open dialogue, valuing diverse perspectives, and fostering collaboration are essential elements of effective teamwork.
The APP Solutions launched a podcast, CareMinds, where you can hear from respected experts in healthcare and Health Tech.
Who is a successful product manager in the healthcare domain? Which skills and qualities are crucial? How important is this role in moving a successful business to new achievements? Responsibilities and KPIs?
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