Meet Sara Well, Founder of Dropstat. Dropstat enables healthcare facilities to cut back on their agency/temporary staffing and overtime costs, while delivering faster, safer care. Dropstat automates the process of procuring staff instantly for open shifts, eliminating the call/text/wait process of calling staff into work.
In addition, Dropstat’s tagging and decision support process enable the best fit (safety/cost) process to ensure that rapid, safe, cost-efficient care is provided. Dropstat can be used in all shift departments- from nursing to phlebotomy and therapy services, to physicians and environmental services. Dropstat significantly improves margins and budget in all facility sizes; from stand-alone single-provider practices to multi-facility enterprise hospitals.
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We’re happy that you could join us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your story?
Sara Well: I spent years working in fast paced medical environments, where patient lives depended on speed and efficiency, but our basic process to procure staff was slow and inefficient; calling staff or texting them and asking if they can come in to work. As a charge nurse working night shifts, I was responsible for the safety of the patients and ensuring the nurses had the support that they needed if any of the patients took a turn for the worst, On one particular night, I was on the phone for an hour, trying to get more staff to come in, while multiple patients were deteriorating, and we had a few new nurses that needed me signature on some of their meds.
I felt dangerously pulled away from the clinical environment where my team needed my help, into a clerical role of trying to get staff to come in to work to help us out. It didn’t feel safe, but sadly, based on my experience, it was status quo. I was disappointed to see that while the hospitals were touting gamma knife surgeries, and gene therapy innovation, our process for getting the staff we desperately needed was archaic and unsustainable. We were often left short handed because we did not have the capacity to sit and make hours of phone calls to staff, while needing to manage patient care. Being short staffed is stressful in any job, but in medicine it can cost lives.
I knew that something had to be done, and I wasn’t going to be heard if I tried to push it up the chain of command. I knew I needed a top down approach, to speak to the key decision makers and present a cost based model. Today, Dropstat can reach an entire team to communicate critical shift needs in a matter seconds, while embed logic identifies the most cost efficient and safe staff members available- saving time, costs, and likely- many lives.
CEOs and leaders usually have different motives and aspirations when getting started. Let’s go straight to the beginning. What was your primary goal for starting your business? Was it wealth, respect, or to offer a service that would help improve lives?
Sara Well: Safe staffing. It’s my air, my fuel and my drive. I carry the images of the nurses, physicians, and patients that I have worked with in my mind. Their stress and burnout, their frustrations when the career they fought for- the care and cure of others- is compromised by a lack of proper staffing is a daily source of stress for healthcare professionals. We are accountable for the quality of our care, and it does not change if we are doing the work of 2 or 3,
We cannot maintain an airway on one patient while simultaneously stopping a bleed on another. When we cannot meet the needs of our patients, when someone’s post op pain cannot be addressed because we are trying to keep 3 other patients alive.. the pain of failure to properly do our jobs because we don’t have the staff support we need is a terrible reality that’s hard to comprehend. Healthcare is on life support, and will not survive the coming storm of nursing and clinical staff shortages if we don’t innovate and manage our processes.
Tell us about 2 things that you like and two things that you dislike about your industry. Share what you’d like to see change and why.
Sara Well: I love the dedication and advocacy of the healthcare professionals in our industry. I don’t like that clinical staffing is treated like a line item, rather than the single most important reason healthcare exists; to meet the needs of patients. I would like to see this shift, and to see an excess of hands on deck ready to help care for patients.
I like that healthcare professionals spend a lot of time managing the emotional and clinical needs of patients before they even get their degree. I don’t like that many hospital admin have never actually taken care of a patient or had direct experience with their pain and suffering. I think all hospital admin should have to do a shadow year to deeply understand the importance of patient care.
Companies around the world are rapidly changing their work environment and organizational culture to facilitate diversity. How do you see your organizational culture changing in the next 3 years and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Sara Well: I see us moving towards actively seeking out more diverse groups of people to take on leadership and healthcare professional roles instead of just sorting through applicants that come through. It’s important to take a more active role in creating a diverse workspace, particularly in healthcare. Diverse leadership represents the diversity of the populations we serve, ensuring that all demographics of people in our care and management feel safe and heard.
At Dropstat, our staff can choose their paid holiday leave based on their religious or cultural affiliation. We have created non gendered paid leave policies, and work to ensure that our representation on media and within our products speaks to the diversity of our audience and clientele.
According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?
Sara Well: Our culture is power centric. As the CEO I take responsibility for the direction of our growth, outside of that, decisions are made with weighted input from all associated department leaders. We conduct all hands meetings to hear alternate perspectives and encourage feedback that will help us improve policy, process and our product.
Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?
Sara Well: I think great organizational culture comes from the 80/20 rule; listen 80%, talk 20%.. we learn more when we talk less, giving our staff a voice and meeting their needs is critical. We have multiple staff members that have children, and when issues come up we enable them to shift work obligations in a way that lets their family remain the priority, while still staying on task. In emergent situations, they can always handoff their status to a supervisor. We have a daily sign out process that communicates exactly what they accomplished every day, making handing off work to a supervisor for emergent situations seamless and easy.
The overwhelming majority of more than 9,000 workers included in a recent Accenture survey on the future of work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward, a major reason for that being the improved work-life balance that it offers. How do you promote work-life balance at your company?
Sara Well: Our employees here at Dropstat are very passionate about our mission, and work long hours. We have an unlimited PTO policy, but our employees rarely take time off. I have had to directly ask staff members to please take time off for their own mental well being. We have found much more success in the hybrid model; we do company retreats at some of our onboarding sites, getting work done in the morning, going horseback riding in the afternoon together etc. We always allow remote work for all staff, and are expanding our relationship with companies that offer affiliate discounts to help our staff prioritize their own self care.
How would you describe your company’s overall culture? Give us examples.
Sara Well: Our culture is very centered on safe feedback and improving on that given feedback. It’s critical to ensuring perfect product/market fit on the product side of our platform, and as a team, feedback helps us ensure that our process is meeting the needs of our staff. For example: we cover group dynamic therapy and mental health therapy for our staff. Once a week we meet with a therapist virtually to create a safe space for open share. During one of these meetings, our staff reported that they were not sure if I wanted them to respond the same day when I email or text on weekends or holidays, or if they needed to be on all meetings I invited them to if they already had other plans for that time.
Getting this feedback helped me institute a priority scoring system that clarified the urgency of the communication and the critical necessity of their presence at the meetings. In another meeting, we had everyone report which parts of their work was their “A” work- where they felt they were working within their zone of genius, their “B” work- things they do well but don’t love, and which work was their “C” work- they will do it because it’s part of their job, but it does not inspire them and they don’t feel proficient doing it. By then end of the meeting we were able to shuffle around everyone’s work so that all would be working in their A and B zones. (We got this idea from Vanessa Van Edwards andi it is an absolute game changer.)
It is believed that a company’s culture is rooted in a company’s values. What are your values and how do they affect daily life at the workplace?
Sara Well: We value open share and feedback, constant improvement, non punitive environment for owning failures, taking responsibility for all good ideas and work that you came up with and created, as well as giving credit to team members who originated an idea or created work. The last two are absolutely critical. We need our team to feel comfortable owning the value of their contributions to our company, and they need to never be afraid that a supervisor will take credit for an idea or initiative that they came up with. This helps us promote and recognize staff that contribute a lot of value, without a staff member stressing about how to ask for a raise or feeling that their impact is not felt.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts.
Sara Well: Our hardest decision was to slow down customer acquisition and focus on value and fit. We over delivered on our projected savings for our first client, and saved them four times more money than we originally predicted. Our client’s told all their friends and affiliates, and within a month we went from being live in 10 facilities to having more than 78 waiting to onboard. We knew that we needed to make some improvements to our systems to be able to handle the volume while ensuring that the quality of our service is not compromised. As an early start up, it was hard no to immediately take badly needed revenue, but slowing down and taking a time to train in more project managers, and upgrade our systems to handle the volume will likely pay off in the long run. We made improvements on the product side that also enabled us to charge more. Net/net it was a win. We have the people we need to handle the volume we want at a fair price, and a level of customer focus that we are proud of.
An organization’s management has a deep impact on its culture. What is your management style and how well has it worked so far?
Sara Well: So far it has worked well, but we are constantly improving our process.
I brought a lot of the management styles that I liked from seeing how the physicians in teaching hospitals manage their patients on a daily basis. They conduct patient rounds daily and discuss the current status of the patient, what needs to be fixed, and what each department needs to do to facilitate the patient’s chance for best outcomes. We do this at Dropstat as well. We virtually conduct client rounds with all departments, and go over each facility’s status, and what each department’s objectives are for improved outcomes. We set cost capture goals for each facility, study our results, and set strategies for improving our metrics.
I’m also very hands on in terms of overseeing the set KPI’s for each department’s operations on a weekly basis. I need to be able to see that the work objectives are moving us forward, and growing out our service for our clients, and that every week we are adding value for them, and making sure our relationships with them are strong.
Every organization suffers from internal conflicts, whether functional or dysfunctional. Our readers would love to know, how do you solve an internal conflict?
Sara Well: Having an internal relationship therapist that anyone on the team can always access has been very helpful in being able to air things out in a safe space, consider alternate responses,and communication styles. I encourage the team to address conflict when it presents as a whisper, rather than panicking later when it gets louder. Connecting frequently and outside of work is also helpful in demonstrating the staff member’s total context; some people present as type A at work and are super laid back off the clock, and makes it easier to find common ground for a stronger working relationship at work.
According to Culture AMP, Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention. What is your organization doing to facilitate an inclusive and supportive environment for women?
Sara Well: We have a larger number of women than men on our leadership team. As an ICU nurse, women were very much a presence in leadership, so my context for woman as thought leaders has always been a given. We also have non binary staff, and a growing number of LGBTQ proud interns who are in college. We’re really excited to bring their voices and needs into our company and figure out what if anything can be done on our internal team side as well as client side to ensure that we are aligned with the evolving needs of this and future generations, whatever their needs may be. While our policies have always been gender neutral and supportive, having staff bring their perspectives into our work will help us build even better products and services, with empathetic design and client centric mindsets that meets their needs where ever they are.
What role do your company’s culture and values play in the recruitment process and how do you ensure that it is free from bias?
Sara Well: We specifically do not ask for pictures. Recruitment team does not give us a name when an applicant is presented. We focus on experience and skill set, and our interview focuses on attitude and work ethic. We ask for pronouns and what name they would like to be called. We have a few interns that use a male/female name that is not the name they were assigned by their parents. We do not ask assigned gender, legal documents have the information needed for legal purposes, however in our interactions as a team, we are committed to ensuring that they feel safe and valued in their work space. We are working on creating relationships with local high schools as well to recruit interns who are motivated but do not have the financial capacity to pay for college.
We’re grateful for all that you have shared so far! We would also love to know if there was one thing that you could improve about your company’s culture, what would it be?
Sara Well: I would love for us to have more opportunities to have fun at work.. we’re working on this.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Sara Well: Our biggest challenge in the healthcare tech space is the 12-18 month sales cycles in enterprise hospitals. For healthcare to survive the oncoming storm of clinical staff shortages, they need to move away from the never ending chain of commands and change of hands that new products go through to get a final approval. They need to embrace critical innovations faster, and improve process faster.
This has been truly insightful and we thank you for your time. Our final question, however, might be a bit of a curveball. If you had a choice to either fly or be invisible, which would you choose and why?
Sara Well: I would chose to be invisible, and sit in on some enterprise hospital meetings to help me understand where the slow downs are in their processes, and how we can help move them to closing sales on needed innovations that improve clinical process on a much faster time table.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Sara Well for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Sara Well or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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