A lifelong learner, Scott Robertson has kept up with rapidly changing technology throughout his career. We spent time with one of our original Relevant Health Roundtable Advisory Committee members to learn how an agile approach isn’t just for emergencies.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a variety of places. I was born in the Bay Area of California, and moved around between Duluth, Minnesota; Billings, Montana; and Great Bend, Kansas. I would have to say my favorite ‘hometown’ is a tie between Berkeley, California, and Duluth, Minnesota.
What was your very first job?
I was a farmhand in Montana. The most memorable part of the job was branding calves and feeding horses. The ranch where I worked raised racing horses and they had to be exercised – riding them was one of the benefits of the job!
Where did you go to college & what did you study?
I attended Macalester College in St. Paul and studied Political Science.
Tell us about your family.
I have a wife, Carrie, and a son, Willem. We’ve lived in Southwest Minneapolis since my son was born. He just graduated from Washburn High School – they had a virtual graduation ceremony for the class this year.
Describe your career trajectory after college.
After graduating college, I worked in a law firm and taught myself HTML. I stood up the company’s first website and intranet, before handling similar work for legal firm clients and, eventually, Fairview Health Services, which got me into the healthcare industry. I took a job there as a webmaster and have been developing my technology skills ever since.
The broad patterns of technology across my career have been pretty stable, but most of the tools I work with on a daily basis turn over every three years. With such a short lifecycle, I intentionally dedicate myself to learning new skills and technologies to stay relevant.
What is your current role?
I am the Vice President of Web and Mobile at HealthPartners. I started in a consulting role there about a year ago to provide a health assessment of their web and mobile program. After a leadership change, I was asked to take on this position.
Interestingly, most of what I was tasked to do in my 30-60-90-day plan was trumped by all the pandemic emergency work that took priority in March. For the first three months, whatever I had planned for the day was rendered unimportant by 10 a.m. and replaced by late breaking information about clinics closing or shutting down online scheduling or making last-minute software customizations. It has finally calmed down a bit, but it was a good lesson to be okay with giving up control and rallying around a common goal as an organization.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
I am really proud of the recent work accomplished at HealthPartners in our August 2019 release – it essentially recreated the digital presence for the care group at HealthPartners. It does a much better job of showing care options that HealthPartners provides in the marketplace and gives consumers the tools for accessing care.
Prior to our work, it was disjointed and fragmented, but now we’re building on it and optimizing it. As a patient-facing tool, it helps consumers determine care locations, specialists, and schedule video and office visits.
PERSPECTIVE ON HEALTHCARE
What challenges do you believe need to be solved in the healthcare industry?
We need to focus on making the consumer experience simpler and more affordable. There’s an awful lot of complexity behind that statement. It will ultimately require the entire healthcare industry to surface the right information to consumers at the right time with the least amount of friction.
What areas are seeing the most innovation in healthcare right now?
This is a funny one – remotely delivered care. There was a big health 2.0 initiative a decade or more ago, where American Well and Zocdoc were trying to make telehealth a bigger player in the marketplace. It had limited traction…that is, until nobody wanted to leave the house or go where others were sick. Suddenly people are fine with video visits!
I’m interested in seeing if these patterns hold true post-vaccine, but forward-looking care groups will shift their model and will structure themselves to deliver more care digitally. Consumers will enjoy the convenience for the same quality of care and it’s less expensive. There’s a lot of room for further innovation here and will ultimately impact payment models.
How has COVID impacted your role and/or company?
I would actually turn it around a little bit – my team has had an impact on the organization throughout COVID. We are an agile work team and feel comfortable with frequent standups to remove blockers and collaborate. The rest of HealthPartners figured out the value of that approach during COVID as they reacted to rapidly evolving COVID concerns. Now they want to develop agile habits and are looking to our team to help with that evolution.
How did you get connected with Relevant Health Roundtable?
I was first introduced to RHR through Casey Holley, a former recruiter at Concord. He connected me to Rajat Relan, the organization founder, and extended an invitation to one of the first panels. Shortly thereafter, I ended up speaking on a panel and joined the Advisory Committee when it first formed in 2016.
Are there any panels that you particularly enjoyed and/or any pieces of advice you've gained from attending?
There was a panel a couple years ago that focused on healthcare startups and investing with Jodi Hubler, Conor Green, and Jeremy Pierotti. It was fascinating to hear where money is channeled and how investors see value opportunities!
Are there any topics you'd love to see featured on an upcoming panel?
This might be too nerdy, but I am really interested in how people are using event streaming for data capture in healthcare. That’s interesting to me from a data management perspective. Likewise, I think the evolution of low- and no-UI healthcare would be an interesting area of conversation.
JUST FOR FUN
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to read. I’m currently reading The Wizards of Armageddon, a non-fiction book about American policymakers regarding nuclear war and nuclear deterrents. I also enjoy playing games with my family and am an avid cyclist. The bike trails in Duluth are pretty spectacular, if you’re local.
Where is your favorite travel destination?
I love the mountains, wherever they are. My family and I were just in Colorado and hiked a couple of very high peaks (by North American standards, at least). We saw mountain goats, marmots, and all kinds of alpine flora and fauna.
What is the best meal you've ever eaten?
One of the best meals I’ve ever had was on my honeymoon 21 years ago. We ate in an old Etruscan fortress in a small town in Tuscany. We were literally inside the walls of this old fortress eating wild boar stew – it was incredible!
Before COVID, the last meal I ate in a restaurant was at 112 Eatery with my wife. We recognized it might be the last time we could enjoy a meal out for quite some time.
Are there any podcasts that you listen to?
I like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. He’s not a true historian – more of a well-educated fan than an academic. His take on history is very well sourced, but his personal passion about the human condition shines through. It’s very entertaining and informative.