Greg Matthews Cropped CopyWelcome to another Going. Ahead. With Gage interview! I had the privilege of interviewing the founder and Managing Director of MDigitalLife, Greg Matthews, who shared insight on being a leader and how his team operates. I hope you all gain some valuable insights and enjoy the read!

What are you doing to ensure that W2O Group is at the cutting edge?

One of the things that I try to do is to make sure that we are always allowing ourselves time to do exploration. One of the things that was true when I walked in the door, before MDigitalLife existed, was that we were continuously working with our clients and really listening to them to understand their deepest business problems. We also made sure that we were focused on solving actual problems rather than coming up with solutions to something that didn’t exist.

My first year and a half here I basically followed Bob Pearson and Paul Dyer around really working on delivering the business they were selling to clients and I learned to ensure everything we do is based on a client’s need in their business. I also learned to make sure that you work with clients who are willing to do some experimentation with you if solutions don’t exist in the marketplace. It’s all about being able to do what we call pragmatic disruption of the status quo – those are the projects that we get a lot of value from and I luckily get to focus on a lot of work that fits into that space.

In a few words, describe what your team does for the company.

My team is focused on indexing the entire healthcare ecosystem online. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information – we basically want to organize the digital presence of all the health stakeholders in the world. It’s a ridiculously crazy goal, but we want to know who every single doctor in the world is and where he or she lives online. We want to know every advocacy organization and every patient that states publicly that they are dealing with a condition. When we know who those people are, we can get incredibly deep intelligence about how the health system actually works, how doctors and patients are working together, how the media impacts their ability to receive the best care, and which advocacy organizations are positioned to help their members. That’s what we are focused on doing for the firm by indexing that data and making it meaningful.

Are you finding that more people are more interested in being online and talking to each other about health, or do you find that because it’s online people don’t trust it?

It’s been interesting to see because I’ve been working in this space since 2007. Back then we thought that there was no way anyone would share private health information online because it was too personal. That has proven to be completely wrong. In actuality, 80% of adults in the US go online for health information and more than 1/3 of them are considered online diagnosers. These people aren’t just looking for information, but they are actually making decisions about the care and the treatment that they seek. After many surveys and watching their behavior, we’ve found that their number one source of trusted information are physicians and physician practices. Being able to help patients connect to those doctors is a core foundation principle that MDigitalLife was built on.

Are you seeing a specific age range online?

I think it has less to do with age and more about what are your needs as a person who suffers from condition X.

It’s interesting because usually we think about online activity as being something young people are using, but when it’s around healthcare, it tends to be less the case. A lot of that is because the people having very engaged active dialogues tend to be people who had a chronic condition themselves or are caring for someone who does. The people who have chronic conditions or are caring for them are typically not young people – they are middle-aged people. Everyone thinks the online doctors we are tracking are probably all residents or med students when in reality, 70% of the doctors we track are over 40 and are well established in practice.

Thinking of your most successful current employees, what characteristics do they share?

The number one most important trait to work in our team and our firm is curiosity. You have to have something inside you that wants to know, that wants to push further, and that wants to turn over every stone to find the right solutions for our clients. People that can bring that enthusiasm and fire every day tend to do very well. It can actually make up for a lack of experience or a lack of skills if your brain is always working on how to solve the problem better, or find the answer that doesn’t seem findable.

How do you empower your employees to do their best possible work?

I have a personal goal to do work only I can do. In other words, to use my time in the most valuable possible way, I want to be sure that the people that work around me are not burdened by menial work. We have very specific skill sets on my team and I want them to focus on the things that really make us unique. If Kayla Rodriguez can spend an hour working on a given task, I want it to be a task that is going to move the needle 10X than something that will move it 1X. 

How do you encourage creative/innovative thinking within the organization?

One of the things I try to do is offer people the opportunity to work with me on client projects and have an exchange of value around that. What I mean is to take someone who is a really good account associate/manager, but has not done work in social, physician communications or some specific thing that I do. I make sure I have that person on the project so I can personally mentor and coach him/her to do those specific skills in exchange for their generalist skills for the rest of the team. It’s been really interesting doing it this way. Both parties come away knowing where they can be the most successful.

What is the most difficult leadership decision you’ve had to make in the recent past?

This is definitely the hardest question on here because it really forces you to think deeply. I think the hardest decision I’ve had to make was where software fits into my vision for MDigitalLife. For me, I feel as though I had to put the brakes on the process because it wasn’t going in a direction to meet the needs for our clients. That has been really hard because stopping is not something I like to do.

What did you learn from that experience?

The most important thing I’ve learned is to be true to my vision and that there comes a time when compromise is actually a bad thing. Generally, people working together, collaborating and compromising is a good thing, but there comes a time when it reaches diminishing returns and I missed it. If I had to do it over again I would have made a different decision in 2014 – I would have recognized that we were going down a path with our software that made sense for a few of our clients, but that didn’t meet the needs of our healthcare clients at all. We’ve lost a lot of time as a result, but I’ve also learned a lot of valuable lessons in the process that can be applied to the greater good of our firm and our clients.

For more information on MDigitalLife, please visit their website: