Health Tech: Jon Bloom On How Podimetrics’ Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall…

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Health Tech: Jon Bloom On How Podimetrics’ Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

Pursue a meaningful problem — I chose unnecessary amputations resulting from complex diabetes because I saw patient after patient needlessly suffering and wanted to be the change they needed to live better and live longer.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jon Bloom, CEO and co-founder of Podimetrics.

Dr. Jon Bloom is a board-certified physician and entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience.Through partnerships with regional and national health plans and at-risk providers, such as the Veterans Health Administration, Podimetrics has helped prevent amputations associated with complex diabetes. Dr. Jon Bloom has co-authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications with a primary focus on healthcare economics and perioperative complications.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

Growing up as a child, I was a latchkey child. This built great independence in me. Each day I came home from school — even at a young age — and made decisions of my own about what to eat and whether to prioritize my homework or my obsession with music.

My parents also instilled in me from day one that there were no “free rides” at home or in life. They helped me understand that focus and hard work could pay dividends if enough time and energy were invested toward a particular goal. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t realize how badly I was struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the related impact it was having on my ability to achieve success in school.

Despite my parents’ best efforts, it was not a short path to success for me. They read me the “riot act” at 18, and I started working for Costco full-time to help make ends meet. I spent much of my time after high school graduation pursuing my music career while also dabbling in college. And while we did make headway as a band, including a high point of opening for Blink-182 at one point, we each eventually had to go our separate ways and pursue more traditional careers.

Still, as I reflect back on those years where I balanced college and dreams of a career as a musician, I realize how much my failures helped propel me toward a more successful future. After an extended stay in undergrad — to the tune of eight years — someone suggested that I write a personal mission statement. And it’s that personal mission statement that helped me flip the switch in my life and move from long-term, rambling student toward a more direct path to medical school.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

While I was going to college, pursuing a career in music, and working at Costco, I ended up chatting with a customer one day in the 1-hour photo department. This older woman engaged me in conversation and wanted to know why I was working at Costco as a young man with a “bright future” ahead of me. It turned out that her husband was a thoracic surgeon. She offered to speak to her husband on my behalf and see if he’d be open to me shadowing him so that I could gain exposure to a potential career in medicine. Because of the kindness she and her husband showed me, I had the opportunity to scrub into a few surgeries and observe his work firsthand. It was this particular experience that solidified my path toward becoming a physician. During those observations between patient and surgeon, I realized that a career as a physician could and bring me the ability to have an impact and to care for people in need.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are a handful of people that I would say I partially owe my career success to; one of them is Doug Hansell, one of my attendings during my time as a resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and a Chief Medical Officer with Covidien. He is the one that showed me the potential for impact that you could bring with a team and capital resources. He taught me the business side of healthcare. This experience was a crash course in how large companies operate, and what it takes to be successful in a business versus the clinic. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities and challenges I encountered during my time at Covidien because they opened doors and helped push me toward a career as an entrepreneur, and, ultimately, as a co-founder of Podimetrics.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This quote from Bruce Lee really resonates with me: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

This idea of the power of relentless, focused practice is something I initially learned in music. Playing an instrument always came naturally to me, but playing music really well and doing so with a team of other musicians made me realize just how critically important practice — and perfect practice, at that — is to mastering a specific skill. My time in medical school also helped reinforce the fact that life-long devotion to practice is what separates the master from the student. Focused learning has had a huge impact as well on my path to entrepreneurship, which requires deep understanding of problems.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I believe the following three character traits have been crucial to my success. First, I love people. I love the energy of people, the power of idea sharing as a team, and watching people grow and succeed — and even fail. People give meaning to work so in order to be a good business leader, you have to be the type of person that derives energy from interacting , collaborating, and coaching others. My work as a musician and as part of a band is an example of my love for people. I loved both playing for the audience and collaborating with my band to energize and grab the attention of our listeners.

Second, a deep value of courage — doing the right thing even though you may be terrified — has been paramount to my success. It is easy to be swayed from making hard decisions or speaking your mind in the face of disagreement, but it’s this type of courage that has led not only to my success but to our team’s success at Podimetrics. Making the jump from the safety of being a physician to Covidien was precisely the type of courage needed to drive change and impact. All these years later, I am still thankful that I chose change over fear when deciding on this particular career jump.

Last, good leaders seek to create impact; to make movement against strong opposing forces. And that impact should be measurable. As CEO and co-founder of Podimetrics, I’ve worked hard to chart and communicate what our path to success looks like. To get our team energized and rowing in the same direction, we always set goals. And not goals that we can check the box on — stretch goals that are hard to achieve. It’s these types of measurable reach goals that a team can rally behind together. At Podimetrics, we set measurable goals that we assess regularly throughout the year. Doing so has allowed us to understand where we are exceeding expectations as a team, and where more time, resources, and focus are needed. Part of driving measurable impact at Podimetrics is also assessing how our patients are faring when it comes to the use of our SmartMat technology that measures the temperature of the foot to decipher the likelihood of a diabetic foot ulcer resulting from complex diabetes. At the end of each year, we want to know how many patient limbs and lives our technology has helped save for those living with complex diabetes.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

Today, every 4 minutes in the US, a limb is amputated due to diabetes — and most are actually avoidable. We often refer to diabetic amputations as the “sleeping giant” within a vulnerable population. Why? One of the greatest markers of health inequity is the diabetic amputation. Black Americans are 3x more likely to require a diabetic amputation than others. What’s worse? 62% of patients who have had a diabetic amputation die within 5 years. Essentially, a foot amputation resulting from diabetic complications is, more often than not, a death sentence. That’s why we’re on a mission to end unnecessary “Civil War” style amputations for patients dealing with diabetes.

How do you think your technology can address this?

We’ve created user-friendly technology, the Podimetrics SmartMat, that directly integrates with clinical and patient support services allowing for a more holistic approach to home-based preventive care for patients. The SmartMat — which a patient typically steps on for approximately 20 seconds per day can detect warning signs of diabetic foot complications up to 5 weeks before they present clinically, allowing for early intervention. Because of the high engagement from our patient community and related research, we have come to understand over time that patients who experience a diabetic foot ulcer tend to be highly medically complex — meaning they have multiple other chronic health conditions, putting them at higher risk for hospitalization and death. Utilization of Podimetrics’ SmartMat coupled with nurse care manager support represents a significant opportunity to reduce costs and improve health outcomes by avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations and healthcare utilization associated with diabetic foot ulcers.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

There is one particular memory that always comes to mind when someone asks me what originally made me feel passion for the cause of saving the limbs of people suffering from complex diabetes. And that memory is of an older patient who was wheeled into the ER by her son. Before even seeing the patient, my nose was overwhelmed with the smell of dying tissue. I knew, without a doubt, that this patient was on the path to losing a limb simply because of the smell of the room which resulted from the poor circulation related to complex diabetes. She was likely not going to leave the hospital. I often think of this woman today. If it wasn’t for her, and scores of other patients like her that I encountered, I am not sure that saving limbs through the use of remote patient monitoring technology and care services would have become my calling in life.

How do you think this might change the world?

From day one, we have taken a patient-centered approach to preventing diabetic foot amputations because we know the devastating impact losing a limb can have on a patient — from mental health implications to caregiver dependence. As Dr. David G. Armstrong, Professor of Surgery at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, previously shared: “Diabetic foot complications should be viewed not as an innocent bystander, but instead as an accomplice driving and exacerbating additional chronic complications not commonly thought to be associated with diabetic foot ulcers.” His statement reinforces the need for a change in perspective that requires us to take a comprehensive look at the patient beyond their diabetic foot in order to identify other complex chronic conditions that might affect them. At the end of the day, we’re doing so much more than saving limbs — we’re helping to save or extend the lives of those living with long-term, complex diabetes.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Today’s current healthcare system is still biased to patients who already have good access to the right care. As business leaders and innovators look to tackle bigger problems in healthcare with technology, it will be critically important for them to improve equity in accessibility. For example, the rise of virtual care and telemedicine amid the pandemic has been highly beneficial to patients who have access to things like high speed wifi and an insurer that covers at-home visits. But what about patients who live in areas where wifi is notoriously spotty? As our country continues to diversify, it is becoming increasingly more important for business leaders and innovators to ensure they are considering how their technology will impact all patients — not just those patients who already have solid access to high quality care. It’s a big challenge for remote care, and one of the principal reasons why we eliminated the need for wifi or smart phone connection with our system.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

Based on my experience, business leaders need to know how to do the following in order to successfully create technology that drives positive social impact:

  1. Pursue a meaningful problem — I chose unnecessary amputations resulting from complex diabetes because I saw patient after patient needlessly suffering and wanted to be the change they needed to live better and live longer.
  2. Understand that problem inside and out — Read all the papers, speak to all the experts, and understand the gaps in research and data. Only by going deep on the problem can you hope to solve that issue.
  3. Prioritize good communication — I am a firm believer that the best ideas come at the intersection of two challenging and even opposing ideas. In order to get to the heart of the best idea, a team needs to rely on and prioritize good communication.
  4. Put people first — Most business leaders know good employees are their greatest asset. But not enough good leaders consistently look out for the best interests of their people and put their needs and well-being above profits. For example, for our nurses at Podimetrics, we capped their hours to ensure they were not being overworked given the plague of burnout among healthcare professionals these days.
  5. Pursue culture contributors, not cultural fits — In our early days at Podimetrics, we established and leaned into our values. Something most great businesses do today. Diversity was always important to us. That said, we made the mistake of over-indexing on people we knew, people who looked and thought like us, and we saw fairly quickly that embracing diversity was absolutely critical to making more strategic decisions.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

We need to take the time to get to know ourselves and define our own personal values. Doing so will help us make decisions toward a life of meaning and impact, instead of jumping on a hamster wheel. Truly knowing yourself and what values mean most to you often reduces the most complex dilemmas into very obvious solutions. They aren’t always easy solutions to do, but you will know with clarity they are right. It makes decision-making more fruitful, and it also makes walking away from something that doesn’t align with your values so much easier.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

I would love to share a meal with Jello Biafra, the frontman and primary lyricist of the Dead Kennedys, one of the most important punk bands of the 1980s. With a microphone and a whirlwind attack behind him, he took on anything that he felt was wrong, from political figures, to general authority, and one of the more entertaining battles of the 1980s and 90s, the short-lived Parents Music Resource Center, which sought to censor “objectionable” music.

While his band has served as an inspiration to me for years, I also appreciate that Jello never took things passively. He always threw his hat in the ring to engage in the battles he thought were worth the time. You can’t always agree with him, but you have to respect his fight.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me, Dr. Jon Bloom, on LinkedIn and Twitter. Also, to learn more about our work at Podimetrics, please visit:

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

Health Tech: Jon Bloom On How Podimetrics’ Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.