Greenwood Pediatrics' Founder, Dr. Dan Feiten Interviewed by the Opportunity Coalition's CEO, Brian Watson


Brian Watson: Welcome to the Opportunity Coalition podcast. Today we’re honored to have Dr. Dan Feiten, President and Founder of Greenwood Pediatrics.  Dan, welcome to our show.

Dan Feiten: Thank you, Brian.

Brian Watson: Dan, if you wouldn’t mind, for our listeners, maybe give us a little bit of a background about Greenwood Pediatrics and how it came to fruition, and what you focus on within the Colorado community.

Dan Feiten: Sure. So Dr. Andy Bower and I came together 22 years ago to create what we envisioned as a more focused approach to primary care pediatrics. We felt at the time that working in teams would allow parents to have the best opportunity to have focus on their children, and in particular children with special needs. And so by combining the concept of team with listening to parents and gathering parents around in focus groups to learn about what their needs are, we were able to come up with a system that, well, nowadays healthcare always talks about working in teams, etc., and I’m proud to say we were thinking about it 20 years ago because it is a system that I think works extremely well.

We have three offices that line the southern aspect of Denver Metro Area in Littleton, Centennial and Parker, and 24 providers, and I have to say that I am extremely fortunate to have amazing docs that I work with. Fortunately they’re all smarter than I am and that makes a huge difference.

Brian Watson: You and I share that with my people that I get to work with as well, that’s for sure. Now you’re one of the largest pediatric practices in the state, is that right?

Dan Feiten: Yes. Uh huh. And I think that I can attribute that to having the right kind of people and having all of those people that are smarter than you. But also really trying to look at what’s happening five to ten years down the road. So out of Greenwood Pediatrics has evolved other companies and we have generally been on the leading edge of technology. So we have another company called Remedy Connect, formerly Pediatric Web, that has developed innovative ways for patients to engage from a technological perspective with their providers. And we were the very first company and the very first practice in the country to use a digital answering service. We were the very first practice in the country to provide a symptom checker on our website. And so it’s been fun because that’s a creative way to look at things and try and meet the needs of families.

Brian Watson: So I’m sure you’ve seen some amazing transitions within the healthcare industry in general, typically over the last year but probably over the last number of years. And it sounds like more and more there’s a transition towards technology and enhanced customer service, but what are some of the more challenging things that you’ve had to deal with in terms of new growth and in terms of meeting the demands of what is needed today versus when you first started the practice?

Dan Feiten: Well, things have changed dramatically, and we have a system here in the United States that there are a lot of people involved, a lot of different shareholders, or stakeholders if you will. And that means you have to get everybody around the table and talk, and that’s very difficult to do, whether it’s the government, or the insurance company, or the provider, or the patient. Everybody has certain needs, and unfortunately I think sometimes we’re not able to put the patient first and foremost. Obviously paying for healthcare is a big issue. And then we have to discover or create ways that the healthcare provider could be scalable. And by that I mean that the personal relationship that a patient or a parent and child have with their personal physician is one of great trust. Most people trust their personal physician, and we have to figure out ways to scale that to be able to provide information that the physician recommends or some guidance, etc. And we’re trying to figure out how to do that through technology in order to save cost, provide better access, and provide a better experience for the patient.

Brian Watson: Absolutely. You know, I get the opportunity to serve on the Colorado Association of Family Medicine, and it’s just fascinating learning that first hand. And granted I’m not a doctor and on the front lines, but I’ve got the opportunity to learn a lot about healthcare in our state specifically. And there’s always this tension between increasing the quality of care and trying to either maintain or hopefully decrease costs over time. What are your thoughts on that because it seems like there’s a definite tension there, and, you know, is there really a solution for it?

Dan Feiten: Well, hopefully the focus on quality rises above most of the other things that we have to deal with. There’s so much that we can do in medicine to improve the lives of patients. But there’s a limit because of the cost. And so the government at this point in time is trying to think about better care at lower cost, and all of us are starting to really think about that, and it’s becoming a group sort of a thing. And I think that that’s good. We’re going to make a lot of mistakes down the road, but I’m encouraged by at least people coming together and thinking about new ways to do this.

Brian Watson: You bet. You know, I’ve always thought the U.S healthcare system being one of the, if not the best, in the entire world. Do you believe that we still maintain that or do you think that that is going in the wrong direction in our system and where things are today?

Dan Feiten: Well, there are, statistically, that depending on what you look at, whether it’s complications in newborns, birth rate-death rate, and everything from the beginning of life to end of life, overall I think people would say we have a phenomenal healthcare system and people have the greatest opportunity to have a better life by being more healthy. We also, though, have a culture that perhaps – I don’t want to say promotes, but perhaps has a lot of things in it that make us less healthy, whether that is smoking, lack of exercise, more junk food for all of us to eat, etc., that are going to affect our life and make our lives “less healthy.” So it’s going to be a balance.

Brian Watson: You bet. What always amazes me is that you can put a label on a product that clearly states this product kills, and people will still want it and crave it, actually, and so you’re dealing with the human element as well, which is always a challenge.

Dan Feiten: Yes.

Brian Watson: So what do you think is one of the greatest challenges facing healthcare today? And if you could make one or two changes that could make the most dramatic impact within healthcare, whatever that might be, what would that be and kind of explain that to us a little bit.

Dan Feiten: I think that we need a high level of transparency. I think that we need to make sure that patients have access to information that has been kept in the background at this point. Healthcare, understanding your body, is difficult enough. Trying to get yourself through the maze or the jungle of the healthcare system is even worse. And so patients have to rely on their personal physician to help them understand their body, but they don’t really have anybody that’s helping them to navigate the jungle of the healthcare system. So we need better ways that the patient, the healthcare consumer, can navigate it more simply. By having more transparency and a better understanding of their costs, of the risks involved, of the options that I have, etc., I think in the end will provide a better healthcare system for the patient.

Brian Watson: Yeah. I would agree with you. And you know, you talk about costs, and one of the critiques of the healthcare system by many is that the patient isn’t really involved with the costs in that they go, and some people may want every test under the sun, and doctors may want to give them every test under the sun just for liability reasons and protecting themselves, but there’s no real competition with the costs and saying well I want to go to this doctor versus this doctor based on cost, or, you know, I have to pay X amount to participate in that. Do you agree with that critique or do you think that’s unfounded and people are getting more educated these days in terms of being consumers of healthcare like any other product or service they may go out and search for?

Dan Feiten: Well, people are becoming more educated, but it’s not even close to being where it needs to be. We’re in the first few years of recycling. We’re in the first few years of when smoking became unpopular. And what I mean by that is that if you look at things like smoking, or recycling, the way that came about was that the kids in the schools learned about it, and they grew up with it, and a lot of times they taught their parents about recycling. Or about smoking, etc. And so these sorts of shifts in our approach to healthcare take many, many years, and it’s actually probably going to be influenced by people who grow up with it, frankly, and I think it’s going to take a long time.

Brian Watson: Yeah. It’s really fascinating, though, when you think about that and it’s the very children that your practice helps to serve as well, and that impact of a child and bringing that into the home and how they grow up with it, and it really will be interesting. I mean, I remember when I was a kid that my parents, we’d drive 65 miles an hour down the road without seatbelts, and the parents were smoking in the car.

Dan Feiten: That’s right.

Brian Watson: And today, you know, that’s almost considered child abuse, you know.

Dan Feiten: Yeah.

Brian Watson: And so it’s really amazing how that’s transformed.

Well, appreciate that about the background about healthcare. I could talk to you about that for a very long time, and you’re so wise about it and I appreciate your comments. But we’d like to transition a little bit and talk a little bit more about you on a personal level. And I’d just like to ask you a few questions. So what is one of your favorite quotes or sayings and why?

Dan Feiten: Lead yourself. I think that in the business that I’ve been in, I’ve been very fortunate to meet a lot of phenomenal leaders like yourself. I love the speakers at the Opportunity Coalition, by the way.

Brian Watson: Thank you.

Dan Feiten: What I’ve realized is that if you’re going to make a difference, a positive difference, in other people’s lives, you have to take time for self-reflection, for exercise, for personal learning, for sleep, for better diet, etc. And so you have to lead yourself first. And I think that I am not very good at that, and so that’s a constant little mantra in the back of my brain that I continually say, Dan, lead yourself, get yourself in order first if you want to serve others.

Brian Watson: Yeah. That’s very, very wise. You know, I’ve seen that first hand in my own family, and that has been individuals who always thought that they would have their health with them and they’d always just about working hard every day. And when you take your health and some other things for granted, your relationships, etc., then all of a sudden you wake up one day without those and you sorely miss them, and it impacts everything. So that’s some very wise advice.

What is some of the best advice you have ever received?

Dan Feiten: Oh, boy. Again, I’ve talked to a lot of people, but one of the ones that has helped me personally, Dr. Dick Krugman, who is the Dean of the Medical School at the University of Colorado, received some information from his predecessor who said that in the business of leadership, people are often coming to you and, if you will, hounding you about a lot of things. And really what they’re doing is they’re coming to you with a problem and they’re looking for you to be the problem solver. And so when I think about patients coming to me or staff or family or whatever, and you’re always trying to turn that around a little bit and just understand that they’re coming to me with a problem and they want me to help them solve it. And I tell that often to parents in my practice with teenagers. That teenagers, despite their acting out, etc., they don’t necessarily recognize their inner struggles, their inner problems, their social misgivings, etc., and they’re actually acting out because they have a problem and they need a problem solver. And take that perspective and I think that that helps you when you’re communicating with your adolescent to make a difference for them.

Brian Watson: it’s interesting you say that because I’ve always found it a struggle that sometimes people want – they come to you because they’d like to have a problem solver and sometimes people want somebody just to listen to them. And it’s a struggle of do they really want someone to come alongside them and help them or are they just wanting an ear, which I guess, in some respects, is helping solve the problem in general of actually listening to somebody.

Dan Feiten: That’s right.

Brian Watson: So, it’s always fascinating.

Dan Feiten: Good.

Brian Watson: What is one of your proudest professional moments and why?

Dan Feiten: Well, I’ve been fortunate to, you know, be recognized for a lot of things. I have been fortunate that the Department of Pediatrics recommended me for a clinical scholar teaching award which is awarded very rarely, only a couple of primary care docs in the state get that award, so I’m proud of that. But I think the other one is when I was 16, I went to a leadership conference. And the 200 kids there in the state, at the end of the four days they vote on somebody to give them a speech, if you will. And they chose me to do that keynote address at the closing dinner. And so I worked for three or four hours and wrote down a little speech and gave it, and everybody stood up and applauded and cheered and so forth. But on my hour-and-a-half drive home from the retreat, my mom came to pick me up and I told her about it, and she said, read me the speech, so I pulled it out and I read it to her. And when I got done I looked over and these tears were just streaming out of her eyes. And, of course, I didn’t know at that age what was going on, and I said, what’s wrong? And she said through her crying, I think you’re going to be president one day. It didn’t matter to me – I didn’t care about being president – but what she was saying was I believe in you. And I think that – I often think about that situation when I’m meeting with teenagers who are juniors or seniors in high school because they’re looking for people who are important in their lives, whether it’s their parents, or their uncle or aunt, or their doctor, whoever, a teacher who simply can say I believe in you. And I think that’s an important message that we need to give to kids.

Brian Watson: I agree with you 100%. And if more of that was done I think it would be absolutely transformational in society. I got the opportunity to be a mentor and the Chair of the Board for a group called Save Our Youth in town.

Dan Feiten: Right.

Brian Watson: And it’s about 300 adults mentoring 300 inner-city youth, and it’s that idea of coming alongside these kids and doing exactly that, that I believe in you and I care for you. And I think when you do that, it absolutely is a positive, positive impact. And sometimes you don’t even know what those impacts are. And it’s amazing that you sit here today after all of your accomplishments, and the very thing that you think about in terms of one of your proudest moments is with your mother in your car when you were 16 years of age, and that just shows you the positive impact. Well thank you for sharing that story.

We talked about some of the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry, but what do you believe is the biggest challenge or threat facing our country or world today?

Dan Feiten: Well, I suppose we all would say that security is a big issue. Of course I would be biased and say that health is a big issue. But I think really trying to get down to the meat of things, and I’m speaking personally here, but I think what concerns me significantly is that there seems to be a lack of dignity for every human person. And what I mean by that is that our technology now allows us to bash people because we’re not talking face to face. Things that we would never do face to face. But we’ve got to the point where we really don’t respect the thoughts of others. We really don’t respect the plight of others. We don’t respect the way that people serve us, whether it is at the fast food chain, or in our building, or wherever. And so it’s my hope that somehow we would begin to understand that every person is dignified just by their mere existence and humanity and that we would recognize that we are a larger brotherhood and sisterhood.

Brian Watson: I would agree with you. I mean that idea of having respect and love and service to others, no matter their station in life. It is another human being, and I’ve got to personally travel a good part of the world, and I believe at one point America was really a leader in that and I think that you’re right. That technology tends to create a disconnection with people and that has some rippling effects. And I think realizing that whether you’re sitting down face to face with somebody or whether you’re typing an email or doing a post on Facebook, it’s still a person that should be respected and loved even if you disagree with them at times. So that’s very valuable information.

Dan, what’s the best way for our listeners to learn more about you and your organization online?

Dan Feiten: Well, they could visit greenwoodpediatrics.com and learn more about us. They can also learn about our other healthcare technology business, remedyconnect.com or pediatricweb.com. Those are some of the services that we’re providing to try and improve patient engagement and provide technology tools for patients.

Brian Watson: Wonderful. Well, Dan, I really want to thank you for being on the show today, and you’re making a very positive impact in the lives of children and also just your view of the world, and that comes across in that leadership that you’re talking about. I can’t tell you how many people that I run into in the Colorado community who have been patients there of your practice, and it always comes across it’s very highly respected and you’re doing a great work out there in the world. So I really appreciate your time and being on the show, and please keep up the great work.

Dan Feiten: Thank you. And I appreciate the good work that you do to get positive messages out to people, Brian, so I appreciate that.

Brian Watson: Well thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.

Dan Feiten: Thank you.