Boston Children’s Hospital Chief Digital Officer, Innovation Leader, Digital Strategy & Transformation Bill Gagnon discusses how BCH uses apps to communicate with Patients and Families


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Brian Anderson: Welcome to the very first podcast of “Why Did You Build This App?”, A podcast about why entrepreneurs and business leaders develop custom software applications. Today, our guest is Bill Gagnon. He’s the head of Global Digital Strategy Transformation and Customer Experience at Boston Children’s Hospital, the number one ranked pediatric hospital in the nation for the ninth year in a row, according to US News and World Reports. We explore his background and how Boston Children’s uses custom software applications to meet its business challenges. I hope you enjoy it. All right. We’re with Bill Gagnon. Uh, hi Bill. Welcome to “Why Did You Build This App?” 

Bill Gagnon: Hi, Brian. Thanks for having me today. 

Brian Anderson: I’ve been really looking forward to this interview. This has been a long time coming and uh, um, I, you know, I wanted to have you as our first guest, um, because I think your background is so interesting. You’ve got such a great perspective on, on this topic. So let’s start by just getting a little bit of your technical and, and your industry background out. You know, maybe tell some stories about how you, uh, broke into this and, and kind of how you, how you became in the role you’re in right now with Boston Children’s Hospital.

Bill Gagnon: Sure. I, I kind of, uh, I use terminology. I consider myself a digital dinosaur. Uh, I’ve been around for, you know, since the, you know, mid nineties and I was one of these that, you know, I had some friends when I, um, when I got out of college, I did the reverse. Most people, you know, went through college and partied and, you know, didn’t pay attention. I actually, you know, went and paid attention, paid my way through, and then I went to Miami to work and then I figured, okay. Now I can get out there and actually have a life. Um, in doing that, uh, one of the things that I, you know, I met some friends that were actually starting to do some, uh, you know, learning about HTML coding and I thought, God, I gotta get my arms around this. Like, what is this? And I remember like going into a couple courses and going back to the boss I had at the time, uh, that was for, uh, animal whole field. Uh, You know, representative and I thought we could take your, you know, paper print catalog that you’re spending so much money on printing all the time and put it online and, you know, of course I get these eyes back, like, what’s online? What are you talking about? And so I said, look, let me just put together, you know, a website. And that was even a foreign word at that time, you know, back in 95. So anyways, I, I put together, you know, a website and did it all set, literally within six months they were actually doing most of their B2B sales through this channel. Uh, people were ordering new products and going through there. So they saw us streamlined and, you know, it was one of those things that just kind of, you know, steamrolled from there. I was actually out the dinner one night in South Beach talking to somebody about what I had did, and the person got up, gave me a card and said, look, love to talk to you tomorrow about this. We’re thinking about doing this with our electronic division, which turned out to be Macy’s, federated department stores, and. You know, I started working in there and going through it all and doing the same thing. And then, um, you know, you’re fine with me. I’m a person that loves challenges and so I had, you know, somebody from Citigroup one day show up in the office and said, here’s a plane ticket. We wanna find out if you can do this, but in banking. And I thought, okay, that’s a, that’s a huge, you know, responsibility. Let’s check this out. And um, you know, one week later I was actually driving myself up to New York, so moving from Miami up there. And, uh, started working in, uh, the, uh, finance area and really just, you know, I went from, as I tell people, you know, bringing my dogs to work with me in, uh, south Beach, wearing shorts to suit and tie every day in big finance and really just seeing, you know, it was a total change, but it was an excellent opportunity. You know, really.

Brian Anderson: That was with Citi Group, right? Like, I mean, it’s like one of the biggest banks in the world. 

Bill Gagnon: It was huge and like a great opportunity. I. I remember my first like meeting, you know, my boss was like, you know, just sit there and don’t say a word and analyze everybody around the table and figure out what it’s gonna take to actually get everybody on board because you’re coming into this trying to, you know, show them and sell them on something that was totally foreign to them, taking the brick and mortar and putting it online. Um, and so I started out, I started out originally in the consumer finance area with student loans and um, with second mortgages and mortgages, and that quickly parlayed into online banking, kiosk and back then. You know, you ran a team and it was very slim and you were head chef, cook, and bottle washer, right? I even, I did, you know, not only the, the website, but our team managed, you know, the online marketing, the affiliate programs. I mean, we were one of the very first teams to start working with LendingTree and uh, you know, we were sitting there one day and I’m thinking like, A conversion rate of 30%. It’s like, let’s do 50% by tying their FICO scores into the backend system. So, you know, we started doing things with APIs that nobody was even doing. Uh, so at that point, you know, I really, I, you know, that was, uh, I call Citigroup the boot camp for a real world. For me, it was like really taught you what you needed to know. I at the time wanted to, you know, take my role to maybe a global perspective because I thought, you know, I’ve done this in retail, I’ve did this in finance, banking, you know, what’s it like to take digital, you know, internationally dealing with different cultures, selling different, you know, mindsets and at the time, um, I was told, uh, they liked what I did where I was at, so they didn’t really want me taking the role in Australia. Uh, but I turned around and literally got a phone call from GE and they were saying that, look, we just bought this, uh, book of business, 57 different international banks and we need someone to come in and help with branding and setting up the digital experience. And I thought, this is exactly what I was looking for. And so a couple weeks later joined and it was so, um, ground floor in that literally I just had like the country and a localized address of where the, the branch was, where I have to basically be dropped in to take care of things. And it was, uh, it was really interesting. Uh, I was able to, um, you know, go there and it was much bigger and broader than what I was used to doing. It wasn’t just so much digital transformation or even back then, digital transformation wasn’t even a terminology. Right? Right. It was more like, how do you start to digitize the process? Yep. Um, what I ended up doing also is, you know, putting, you know right people, right roles on doing that, looking at branding, looking at redoing everything and tying through the whole experience. So it was, it was huge. And even some of the banks we worked in, like in Poland, um, you know, there’s so many different things culturally that I. You know, a lot of the business lending was with, um, you know, your, uh, personal loans, but yet people did not wanna be seen going into a bank for a personal loan. So that’s why, you know, I love the fact that I had the ability to do international work for over 10 years because we had to learn that, okay, maybe we have to put kiosks throughout the town where people could go and not be seen so they could do these underwriting events and things like that. Mm-hmm. And so, You know, a lot of just key learnings that you get, so you know, it’s not, you know, it’s always the same as like selling in, you know, different cultures. You really have to, you know, customize the experience. 

Brian Anderson: How did you, how, how did it lead you into what you’re doing now at Boston Children’s Hospital? Maybe talk a little bit about what your current role is. 

Bill Gagnon: I went from GE over to Cigna, and I was on the, I was on the insurance side of things and so. Doing kind of a similar role, the digital transformation, um, helping people, you know, transform their business. And so at that point in my life, I had, you know, experience in retail, um, you know, uh, banking, finance, insurance, uh, ge, healthcare products. And, uh, and then I was thinking, okay, I want to be in the healthcare world. What’s that like? And so Boston Children’s actually called me up one day and I remember I was driving home and, you know, and it was like, it was a long day and it was, uh, it was kind of a rough day because my social media team had a little bit of a challenge where, um, you know, one of the patients was just, um, needed some real extra care and we just, You really saw the insurance side of the house and you know, I had said to the headhunter, I said, look, I said, just, you know, I appreciate the call. I said, but unless you, you know, can tell me this is gonna be something I’m gonna do, that’s gonna be good. I said, you know, I don’t wanna waste your time. I. And they turned around and they said, well, it’s for, you know, heading up Boston Children’s and helping out, you know, all the different families, you know, with their care and their whole care process. And I was, yeah, literally I went there the next day and I think I accepted a job that night. 

Brian Anderson: Yeah. You know, I, I hear that. I hear that so often in our work in healthcare. I mean, uh, that’s a big reason why people are in healthcare. Cause they just. They, they have a heart for it. They wanna make a difference in people’s lives. They wanna help people and serve people. And I just think that’s so admirable and that’s, that’s, uh, a thing I find across really the whole industry in the provider space especially. Um, and, uh, that’s cool that you have that, uh, That heart for it too. 

Bill Gagnon: It’s, it’s great. I always tell my team, you know, well, especially, I mean, it’s a little bit different now, but you know, pre covid days, you know, you can see when someone’s really getting, you know, a little bit like burned out or they burned the candle at both ends, and I was the first one to say, look, grab a coffee. I sit and go sit in the lobby for 10 minutes. I said, and you’re gonna have a different perspective at the end of that con, when you see the families coming in, what they’re dealing with, and the fact that you help them to get to that point. I said, that’s huge. I said, because especially when you know as an adult and you go around like we were talking earlier, you know, just getting your own self taken care of in healthcare it, I think there’s so many shortcuts that we take just because it’s easier to get it done. So if you can imagine if you’re doing that for your children, you want the best care. You don’t want shortcuts. Yeah. So, We have to make it a lot easier for them to come into the, you know, to our hospitals and our locations. 

Brian Anderson: Yeah. Well apparently you’re doing a great job because if I read this correctly, Boston Children’s Hospital is sort of the number one children’s hospital in the nation. Um, and so, uh, it’s amazing work that you all are doing there and, uh, tons of families I’m sure are incredibly grateful for it. Um, And, uh, you know, I wanted to kind of pivot a little bit into apps, you know, building apps, building software to solve these problems. We talk about digital transformation and it’s this broad topic, right? So like, you know, what is it to you and how do you break it down? And maybe we could go through a couple of the engagements we’ve worked on together and what are the reasons behind those? 

Bill Gagnon: Sure. No, I’d love to. So, you know, it’s funny, I, you know, with, um, during the covid, I know that in the last few years, You know, I, I’ve been going to a lot of the, you know, the world turn from, you know, in-person, uh, seminars to online, you know, different types of, you know, words and sharing and table, you know, board tables you do. And the one thing that, you know, I’d always walk away and people would like either reach out on LinkedIn or talk to me later. They said it was interesting because you have a different perspective than the usual digital engagement person. And I believe that it’s, you know, it’s, it’s not just digital, it’s the whole experience. It’s really what you have to go. Mm-hmm. And yes, a lot of times digitizing the process makes it so much easier and so much better for the, you know, end route. And that’s my wheelhouse and what I do. But I, I actually probably spend 60% of my time looking at the whole overall experience. Uh, I was very fortunate when I, you know, did my time working over at GE. You know, I was, uh, you know, went through all the Six Sigma, you know, work and, um, you know, learning all of that process and streamlining, and it really helps you kind of put a perspective that this is, you know, not only like what we think we know is, but you’re looking at it from the point of view as the, you know, person going through it at the time. Whether it’s a patient or it’s a family, or it’s a, a consumer. You want to give them the most optimal experience. And, you know, that’s kind of the way that I still even to this day, you know, work throughout. Um, even at the hospital, I look at listening, which is a great. You know, part of my job finding out what are people’s experiences and how do I actually make that just a little bit better and improve it and also get everybody else to buy into it. That it’s not just your shop and finance that’s controlling the patient or whatever it might be, everybody working together makes that a better all experience. So we kind of got together, um, back in my early days, um, about two years ago. When we had, um, you know, a lot of people were, you know, they, we had a lot of phone calls every day. I’m not gonna lie. I mean, that’s, that’s the base how people come into the hospital. And there’s a lot of times where they’re calling in and it might be, you know, the person that might be on the phone call that should be taking it for a, maybe a patient visit maybe is giving directions on where their, where their appointment might be. And so we learned that there needed to be a, a helpful tool. And so I know in my past, you know, a lot of times, you know, people like myself, you know what works you bring with you, right? Um, it’s like, so I, I, you know, I had a couple different, um, I would say preliminary chat bots that we started building back in my day in Cigna. And so when I got to Boston Children’s, we took a step back and we, you know, scoped out what we needed to do. And, you know, we looked at the different tools and so, you know, one of the things is that, you know, It’s, you know, at Boston Children’s, you’re right, we do a great amount of work. We have fantastic clinicians, fantastic people throughout the hospital, administrative and clinical. But we also, we run, you know, slim when it comes time for like, you know, work investment in a, you know, headcount. And so it’s not every day you can just go out and buy, you know, a software that has like, you know, you know, per payment on headcount for everything. So a lot of times, you know, the tools I found myself reducing it. And trying to build it in-house so I could actually have something that I didn’t have to pay for on a monthly expenditure. Um, and making sure that it was actually used, but it actually, it was also customized because the, what the, you know, the, the same customized care that we give in our hospital, we wanna give that same experience. And so for me to get something out of the box, it just doesn’t always cut, you know, to what I need. Yep. And so when I reached out to you, I knew that we had, um, we had set up, I’d say a baseline of, uh, you know, a simplified, um, ai, you know, power chatbot based on the old, um, original Alice, you know, coding that they’d used. And, you know, it, it worked well. Um, it was able to give under, you know, information back and forth, but we wanted more. Um, we have a lot of people now that, you know, once somebody comes in, um, You know, you guys have built for us the ability for them to not only do the the chat, but also to document it. To record it, to actually understand, like, you know, when there’s alerts that should be done. Case in point, we have keyword triggers for things like, you know, terms around suicide or things like that, that we need to. Somebody right away. Because in a hospital we’re not always staffed 24/7, but we have alerts that go to somebody should that come up. So that’s, um, those are nice, the nice bells and whistles. But the one recently we just did is that we, you know, um, with our new website, we made sure that, you know, we’re really striving to be, you know, overboard on ADA compliance because what we realized is that out of all the websites people probably go to, we do have probably the most highest majority of either families or patients that have disabilities. We wanna make sure that to have the right, you know, experience and the right, um, you know, um, things for them to actually engage with us, understand what they’re looking at or what they’re hearing. So the chat, uh, the chatbot that you guys helped us to, to kind of streamline and improve, we now have voice enabled, so in mobile they can use it. We’re getting a lot of activity on that. And we also have the escalation to a real life person if it’s in the hours of somebody being able to do it. And that’s huge because that’s where mm-hmm. You know, a lot of times when people do call up, you know, our, if you’ve ever been to our Boston location, um, Longwood is very busy. Uh, a lot of cars, a lot of traffic’s, five hospital. It’s, it’s, you know, there’s a lot of things going on activity wise and, you know, no matter how early you leave in Boston, you’re still gonna be late. And so a lot of times people would be, they would actually, you know, get online and they would start looking at, talking to our chat bot to find out about, okay, I’m going to urology. Um, how do I tell somebody they’re late? And that’s when we realized that we didn’t have that capability, so why not escalate it to somebody or chat or a text functionality. We could send it to them. So if they are late, either they can get the next time appointment, or they could even reschedule if it’s something they just couldn’t do that day. So we’re, we’re really partnering with our, our, you know, our counterparts and access to do all of these things. But ironically, as we started building out this tool, it really got some, you know, legs of its own because we learned that, you know, a lot of the calls that were still coming in, um, you know, I, I always, uh, you know, we have a close, uh, tie with my counterparts and, and access and we’d sit there and have these conversations and you could see that, you know, people that were getting the phone calls they had many different things around their office of like, you know, um, either these are the phone numbers or fax numbers for neurology, for, you know, for um, dentistry. And so we thought why not have it used internally as well as externally. And so now the internal teams use it as almost like an internal go-to where to find things. So a lot of the paperwork or, you know, old tutorials are kind of gone now and they’re using this tool to find a phone number of facts, how to get directions. Do we have Vale valet parking? All those great things, but what I really pride myself on is that, you know, we’ll every Friday we’ll get together, have some lunch, and we’ll look at, you know, some of the different chats that come in, some of them entertaining, uh, yes, always like that. Um, but there’s some that, you know, we had one the other day. That went on for three paragraphs and I was gonna really nervous reviewing it. Cause I thought, you know, this is a simplified AI chatbot that looks for different, you know, terms on, you know, keyword basis. And this was going so many different directions. But at the end of it, it gave a suggestion, you should go to this clinic. And it was spot on. And I thought, oh my God. It’s like that, that’s when you know you’re on the right path because you had some, you know, we have so many people just say thank you and it’s like you, you know, if you think about how everybody engages today. Most people don’t even, you know, say that in a chat when they’re talking to somebody. So we can, you know, so many people that are just appreciative of the data and content because it saved them from being on a, you know, in the, you know, the phone queue for, you know, like a little while waiting and some, a real live person to take care of them.

Brian Anderson: Yeah. People just need to count on you. They need to trust that you’re gonna be there for ’em and, you know, you’ll be able to communicate with them effectively and, and you could be there in person. But these, these kinds of interactions are so, uh, natural now and, and effective. Almost as effective as being in person. Um, and, uh, and it’s interesting, I wanna take like a quick break here and, uh, and then I wanna come back and ask you a couple questions about kind of how you think about apps and systems and how you, how you come up with these innovative ideas. So we’ll pause for just a second and come right back. 

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Brian Anderson: You, you saw from experience that there was a solution that could, could help and then you did a lot of analysis work. You know, like you said earlier, you spent 60% of your time focused on like, What are these problems? What are the needs? What is the journey these people are going through? And like, how do we actually develop solutions for those? And then it’s this kind of a agile process where you’re able to iterate and iterate and iterate, and it keeps getting better and better and better over time. And you did it without like a uh, you, you did it with a platform that is not one of the mainstream chatbot, you know, SaaS businesses, right? I mean, it’s a open source, uh, software. Um, and maybe you could talk a little bit about the technology. Briefly. 

Bill Gagnon: Yeah. No, exactly. It was, I know that I probably drove your team crazy when we first, uh, engaged because, you know, I, I kind of said it right off. It’s like, look, you know, we’re, we’re on a, not only a tight budget, but I also, I just, I know what works, and I’ve done this long enough for my career that there’s been so many software packages that I’ve, I’ve turned off just because of the fact that you’re paying for something that really isn’t being used or somebody’s not signing into. Um, and a lot of times, you know, these software packages, when you’re in digital, you’re creating it for a department that you don’t have control over. And so you can’t be sitting there saying, Hey, we need you to log in every day. You should be using this. You hope that they see the value when it, and they do it. Um, but this tool was something where it was just like, you know, I would say it’s, like I said, we built it off of the, you know, first, uh, version of Alice. You guys took it. And I would say, you know, you, you put the Corvette engine inside of it and you, you know, souped it up for us. Um, you know, it’s all background, you know, php, um, which, you know, integrates very nicely across the board. Um, and you know, the reality is I don’t have monthly fees on software that I’ve gotta be paying for, and I’m getting huge results from it, and it’s customizable. That’s the fact, you know, I’ll call up your team. We have actually a once a week meetings, which are fantastic, and I’m always telling them, it’s like, okay, next time it’s like, let’s add this to the tool, or let’s put this on. And it’s, I like the fact that mm-hmm we can grow it and it doesn’t look like. Um, that we’re just creating like a Frankenstein’ed monster. It’s very streamlined. It’s just next week we have a new type technology that’s like a new add on feature for it. 

Brian Anderson: Yeah. And this is just one app. I mean, you’re, you see so many other apps too. Maybe, um, uh, talk a little bit about why you built, um, the QR solution, the QR code solution during Covid. 

Bill Gagnon: Exactly. Well, that, that’s how we found each other. Because, you know, it’s like, uh, somebody asked me the day, it’s like, you know, you guys we’re in Boston, how did you find these guys? And I said, well, I said, you know, it happened, uh, you know, when we, when Covid broke out and you know, myself, I, I, I think I was patient zero, um, in Worcester, mass when I came back because I had just returned from Brazil and I literally got off the plane and then was, you know, sent it in the ambulance to the hospital and it was before they even knew what was going on and all that. So luckily, knock on wood, you know, I, I was one of the good ones that came out, survived out of it no matter what I had. Um, but you know, as we were going through this, you know, our world really, there’s everybody’s turned upside down. Um, you know, my mark, you know, my team for digital marketing turned into yes, a website, but now it’s all customizable for like, COVID was a huge section. Everything was covid, everything was covid content. Uh, we were doing, you know, videos and. And content updates and, um, infographics, everything. You know, our emails switched over. I mean, we have a huge email project, uh, program that goes on where most of the emails just converted to what’s going on with Covid. What do you need to know and where do you go? Cause people were looking for answers. Um, and, you know, one of the things that came up was I was on a meeting one time and. You know, I’m, I’m known as the what if guy. And so they’ll, I’m on these calls sometimes and I’m like, I like to listen to what the, the pain points are. And it’s like, well, what if we did this? And one of the pain points that day is they were, they were talking to me about that, you know, we are a hospital that has a large number of, you know, rare and unique conditions. Um, and, you know, we just, we couldn’t shut down like the rest of the world, we had to take care of our patients. I mean, that’s what we’re there for. And so patients were coming in, but it was restricted how many people they could come with. Um, you know, and even parents were limited time. And then a lot of our business that comes in, a lot of the people that come into our hospital, they’re referred patients. And so the referring clinician wanted to find out what’s going on? Where are we at with this? And so we started thinking, okay, well everybody’s going the route of, you know, zoom calls, uh, legislation was a lot more relaxed, so we could actually use Zoom. But the challenge was like, you know, it’s like back to my days, I was thinking, um, I brought myself back to my days at Citigroup when, you know, you were, you were trying to do, um, online, you know, affiliate programs. Is that, try to give somebody a URL to remember in marketing is like you’re gonna lose them. It’s gotta be a short value URL, something crisp they can remember and type in. Cause otherwise what are they gonna do? They’re gonna type in like Citigroup or they’re gonna type in Boston Children’s. At the core of it, you lose all the tracking parameters, right? And so the one thing I thought of, it’s like, well, I know it’s a little bit dated, I said, but what if you know, we used QR codes. And we put that on there. I said that way you could send it right to the URL and then you hand it out to the patients families, referring clinicians, and it it like, it just skyrocketed overnight because what happened is the first use case was all the people in the family that missed a child wanted to see grandparents, um, siblings. They could, you know, zoom in and talk to their child. The line was always available for referring physicians when they met with the clinician in charge and also the administrative in the hospital. And then even like the parents, you know, when they had to meet with a, maybe a doctor consultation at night or during the, you know, early hours when they were at work. And so it was just multifaceted and it went off and it, it was funny because, um, you know, I, I, we had a, an article that was done on the hospital about, you know, some of the things that, you know, any, everybody’s like trying different things in the time of covid. And we had, you know, talked about that. And I had some people in, in the industry that were peers of mine, you know, that was a time where I was getting abused by everybody. They were calling me up and saying, boy, you’re really dating yourself, going old school, pulling that one outta your hat, a QR code that nobody uses that stuff anymore. And, you know, and so when your, your team had called about the article, I was actually probably at the end of my rope where, I was almost like, you know, what are you, what are, you’re not calling about something good. And that’s when we started talking about it and they were like, no, we wanted to learn more about the why behind it. And, you know, we had a great conversation. And what, like a couple days later we were doing business on the, you know, the chat bot. And, and now I laugh because, Every time I go out to eat, it’s all QR codes. Everything you do right now is all QR that nobody wants to give you something here. Check out the menu here. Or this is how you order this here. And so it’s definitely something that is rebounded. And I mean, was it old school at the time? Oh, absolutely. I remember saying it and people looking at me like, what? But you were in the hospital now? Yeah. Even all of our posters have QR codes just to like, if you’re gonna from here to the cafeteria, here’s the directions, the wayfinding that you actually do. 

Brian Anderson: Yeah. So much easier. And I even like, uh, even on like a Roku TV or something like that where you have to like register if you’re like a staying at an Airbnb or something like that. So much easier when the QR code’s there. It’s like people actually finally understand how to use ’em now, you know? 

Bill Gagnon: That’s is a good use case. Exactly. 

Brian Anderson: And, and it like the, and it just became all these things during Covid, I feel like. This, uh, you know, video calls and, you know, doing zooms and things like that. Like those were much harder to convince people to do just a couple years ago. Now they’re just like ingrained, you know? And it’s part of how you live with and how you interact with people. 

Bill Gagnon: Funny, isn’t it? Yeah. How things have just transformed overnight. I even myself, I think two years ago, I probably would’ve been in a meeting saying that, you know, um, Let’s say, you know, remote work, is this something my whole team could do? And I was like, I don’t know if the whole team can do it, because not so much that, you know, they work remote, but it’s more of like, you know, we deal with, you know, our hospital’s, 50% administrative, 50% clinical, and you really need to be in front and facing with them. But, you know, it works. Zoom has been doing it. Nobody’s missed anything. If anything, I think the relationships have become stronger because you’re just, you know, you were there during the times when needed and you got things done. 

Brian Anderson: I, uh, you know, I, I’m curious, how do you think about apps? I mean, you see so many, um, you’ve worked with so many different applications within businesses, you know, public facing, internal, um, all these different platforms, right. Like, um, how do you. How do you think about ’em? Like when do they be, when does it become obvious in your mind, like, that needs to be an app? 

Bill Gagnon: So I’ll probably sound like a broken record, but you know, when I was at GE and I went through all the Lean Six Sigma process, that stuck with me. Um, I, I guess I base every role that I get into now on that. When I start a new, uh, job or a new section of, uh, what I’m working on, I go back to the basics. I look at getting all the core stakeholders together. I do a, you know, a quick, even if it’s a couple hour, just like mapping process. I learn about what’s going on, but more importantly, I learn opportunities. I don’t even kind of call them pain points anymore because everybody knows they’re pain point. Opportunities gets people to buy into it and say, okay, let’s try that. And the reality is, is that, you know, at the end of the day, what I end up like putting on the table to do. Is because that’s what’s gonna make the experience better for, you know, all stakeholders, not only, you know, patients and families or customers. Because where I’m at right now at Boston Children’s is that we have many different people that we, we actually work with. It’s not just like a consumer, like a retail store would have, we have patients and families, we have referring physicians that, you know, send children to us. And we also have research communities and we have people that just want to know more about, you know, like what the hospital’s doing overall. And we’ve gotta be that one thing for everybody. But you also have to have all the right ways to engage with them. And so whenever I create either a new software or a new app, or a new portion of the website, it’s really based on, you know, making sure that we’re targeting that need in order to improve their, you know, their engagement overall. And that’s why, you know, most of the time it does turn out to be a digital experience or an engagement process that we improve upon, but sometimes it’s, it’s operational and with a little twist of digital at the end of it, but, I don’t, I don’t not do something because it’s not, um, that’s probably where I got myself in trouble is that sometimes I do crossover into other areas, but I do it in a helpful way. And usually, you know, if you have good partnerships throughout the, you know, wherever you work, people buy into it and they want to have that success too. And so, you know, a change, change is rarely in one little area. Change usually happens across the whole spectrum of the experience. 

Brian Anderson: That’s so true. And uh, it, it is interesting because change is kind of a difficult thing too for people. Um, but once that momentum starts picking up and people can see the benefits, uh, it us, that momentum usually accelerates, you know? 

Bill Gagnon: Oh, absolutely.

Brian Anderson: uh, in my, in my opinion. 

Bill Gagnon: Right. It, it definitely does. And one of the things that I do is that, I take, you know, I have a, a guiding process, but I want, you know, at the end of the day, let’s say this, you know, if I go into, uh, work with urology tomorrow, I already know going into it after looking at some of the things, the high level of like some, some things that are already happening, some challenges and some ways to get around that because you know, Every time you do something in one location, a lot of it is transferrable to another one because the people have the same kind of oppor, you know, same kind of issues / opportunities. And so what I like to do is go into it, and I do it in a way that I point out the opportunities, but I. Get the people in the room to say it as opposed to me, because it’s different when it comes from the people that are in there because then they own it. They buy into it and they, they make sure that they nurture it going forward, that it’s just not a one and done. And they, they go back to their day job after the session’s over. 

Brian Anderson: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting, like, um, one last topic I wanted to just explore with you is funding, right? Like, how, when you’re working in a large organization, what does, what does funding look like for apps? How are, how do people actually, you know, get to the point where they’ve got the idea, they know the need, they, they’re able to get the funding into their budgets. Like, what’s that process like for you? 

Bill Gagnon: It, it’s, I’ll tell you what, when you go to, you know, it’s, it was a, a big wake up call, uh, when you went from corporate America into a nonprofit, um, you know, number one children’s hospital, you know, we run things tight. Um, you know, we’ve got, you know, like a small team, um, in the budget is supplementary to what we have to do. Um, it’s not the easiest because you have to figure out ways, but I. Again, like I said earlier, I like the challenge of the fact that I can sit there and say, okay, how do we make it work? We know we have X to work with what we have to do, and a lot of it is that whole proof of concept. A lot of times I know I can’t walk in and say, look, I want a, you know, million dollar software package that’s gonna do X, Y, and Z. I’ve gotta show why it actually will work and what it’ll do. And so a lot of times we’ll do these like, you know, spin up, um, little proof of concepts to show why they need it. And, you know, ideally you always look in the company for, you know, who is your, like, you know, uh, frequent flyers that are actually gonna be helpful for you because I’ve learned, you know, when I go into a meeting that I have, you know, my either administrative or clinical support that’s talking about how it actually improved not only them, but their patients experience or the people that work with it. At that point, it’s a lot easier sale to say, okay, does it make sense that we move from this point to that? Um, because, you know, I, I, you know, I’ll share this story. When I first got the children’s, you know, we saw something that, uh, it was a process that spanned operational and also there was some digital component at the end of it. And, you know, technically in the world I sat with, it was a little bit okay, it was a little bit outside of my area, but we put it in place and we did it as a pilot. And I remember sitting at the table where I was being, uh, let’s just say I was being talked to about, you know, maybe overstepping boundaries, but I said, well, where did I go wrong for the patient experience? And, and there was silence. And I said, just point that out. I said, cause you’re gonna do this everywhere now. Am I correct? And it was just more silence. And I was like, and I said, I, I just want to help. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to get everybody a better experience and we’ve got to break down our barriers and our walls and get past people’s titles and who runs what. And just work together on this because at the end of the day, yeah, that patient family just cut 20 minutes off their wait time, there’s less frustration and they’re probably gonna go and give a really good rating and review after they leave. Things that we can’t control usually. 

Brian Anderson: Yep. Yeah, those are great. Those are great examples and I, I’m, I’m a big believer in what you’re saying there, like, you, it, it rarely, we rarely start a relationship with any client where we start huge. I can’t think of barely any at all. We always start small, you know, and, uh, we build momentum over time. We build on successes and, and making a difference in people’s lives, you know. 

Bill Gagnon: It’s so true because, you know, it’s funny, you know, when you were just talking about that, it just reminded me, Uh, that most of the project that do start big are the ones that end up being replaced after a couple of years because it’s almost like, how did you know you needed all of that when you went into it, as opposed to growing along with it and making it sure that it would hit fit everybody’s needs.

Brian Anderson: Yep. Yep. And constantly iterating, adjusting. 

Bill Gagnon: Exactly. 

Brian Anderson: Doing what you’re doing right now with the chatbots. A great example of that. Right. It just keeps getting better every week, you know? 

Bill Gagnon: Exactly. 

Brian Anderson: Um, and, uh, those are the best systems I find. And, and you know, and there’s others that are bigger. We have to design, you really have to like, you know, think through the bigger architecture or the bigger design, but then there’s still tons of areas in there to cut it down to the core and just work your way out, you know? 

Bill Gagnon: Well, it, exactly. I mean, here’s something like we we’re working together on our next project, um, with Augusto, is that when I rolled into Boston Children’s, you know, we were using a very large, I’d say, um, you know, it’s, it’s top line, you know, uh, CMS tool, Sitecore, um, and we migrated over to Drupal, but it was just, you know, again, you know, a company that bought into a package using, you know, maybe 20% of the capabilities and, let’s get a tool that actually we can grow with and make it up till we’re using 80% of that as opposed to, you know, the back of the envelope. And, you know, we migrated over and you guys have been great with helping, you know, set that up and then really, you know, setting up the backend structure of our AWS and making, you know, taking us to a different level there because that’s something that wasn’t really in our, um, you know, suite of products. You know, when I first got there. 

Brian Anderson: Yeah. And, and, and it’s a pleasure to be working with you on those things and your teams as well. We’re thankful and, uh, um, you know, just try to help everybody, you know, get what they need and get better at those skills so that you can like continue to, uh, deliver value faster for people. Um, and, uh, yeah, it’s been great. Bill. I really appreciate this interview and, uh, Um, is there any place where people might be able to find more information about you or, uh, or Boston’s Children’s? 

Bill Gagnon: No. I appreciate you having me. This is great talking with you and catching up and, you know, everybody can check out the newest, uh, happenings over at Boston Children’s at and, uh, you know, we’re constantly, you know, growing every day and just trying to take care of that next patient that’s looking for help.

Brian Anderson: Awesome. Thank you. 

Bill Gagnon: Thanks for having me. 

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