When we talk about accessibility and availability, it’s important to remember the various obstacles many people face in our healthcare system. Both in metropolitan areas and rural areas, we do have issues with availability and access to health care. We have a lack of synergy between our infrastructure and the healthcare system itself. So, for example, is there a bus or train or subway that I can take to the emergency room or a doctor’s appointment? If video appointments are available, do I have internet with enough bandwidth to access them?

As a part of our series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Kraciun.

Daniel Kraciun is an experienced sales and marketing professional currently serving as the Chief Marketing Officer and VP of Operations for Trust.med. Since January 2021, he has been working on implementing effective marketing strategies and company operations.

Daniel has held the role of CMO and has also served as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships. Notably, he held the position of Director of Solutions and Integrations at DialogTech contributing to the company’s solution development, sales, and system integration strategies. In 2022, Daniel was honored with a place on the Cleveland 40 under 40 list, reflecting his dedication and achievements in his field.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m a ’90s kid. I grew up with a computer in the dining room; we were the first generation to grow up with the internet in our homes. I’ve always been fascinated by being able to communicate with people I’ve never met. I never lost that sense of wonder and it evolved into a desire to help others better communicate and collaborate, whether as individuals, businesses, or ecosystems.

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

After our company was acquired, my colleague — who is now my business partner — and I set out on a quest for our next professional endeavor. We were committed to finding experienced and unique investors to help us establish a tech startup. For three months, unemployed but undeterred, we traveled as a duo in his van, reaching out to individuals who appeared to have the expertise and capabilities to join us on our venture.

One sweltering afternoon in August, our paths crossed with Second Generation, a family-owned private equity firm specializing in investments in top-level internet domains. After several discussions, we struck a deal and initiated our partnership. This collaboration led to the founding of Trust.med, a company focused on medical communications.

This journey allowed me to channel my professional interests into building connections with people I might never have encountered otherwise. It also opened doors to industries that I wouldn’t typically have considered, given my tech-centric background.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

When I was in college I delivered pizzas for one of the local shops. I had only been working there for a week or so when I was given a large order for an event on campus. There were dozens of pizzas and two litters to load into my Civic. In my rush to get there on time I went speeding out of the lot. Well I completely forgot that I set several of the pizzas on my trunk and they went flying as I whipped around the lot. It was a complete disaster with some of the pizzas even landing on other cars. Needless to say I did not complete the delivery and my time there came to an abrupt end.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Better late than never.

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

They’re all cliché, but the one that I consistently use is “luck is the intersection between preparation and opportunity.” I do believe that I am a very lucky person; I believe that you can generate your own luck, and you do so by making sure that you are saying yes a lot and you are prepared for what saying yes means. I rarely turn down an opportunity to do almost anything, and I’m a very diligent and consistent person. So those pair very nicely for generating “luck.”

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

An excellent health care provider puts patients first and they have the ability to collaborate and communicate all of the minutia in a clear and concise way. You can’t just say that you put patients first; you have to show it by clearly and consistently communicating with them so that they have all the information they may need to make educated decisions about their own health.

I’ve had my own health issues that have given me a very deep understanding of what patients go through and how valuable communication is, whether it’s a healthcare provider or drug manufacturer or insurance company. All of it, all the way down to transportation to the healthcare provider, internet accessibility, and patient access to health records. It means a lot to me, and it’s one of the reasons that I want to solve these problems of collaboration and communication within healthcare.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

I have so many. Currently, my number one podcast is the Lex Friedman podcast. Lex Friedman is a former MIT robotics professor, and just overall, an independent and intelligent person who has fantastic guests with whom he has very deep and thick conversations about complex topics from every possible side or angle.

I recently read a very old book, from the 17th century, The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. He was a famous Japanese samurai, swordsman, philosopher, strategist, and writer who trained others in the discipline of Japanese swordsmanship. But the Book of Five Rings encompasses strategy, work ethic, philosophy, and talks about the importance of perfecting your craft, no matter what it is.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Our most exciting project will help manufacturers, pharmacies, distributors, hospitals, and other trade partners identify counterfeit pharmaceutical products before they get to consumers. It’s absolutely the coolest thing that we’re working on because it is the last line of defense before a pharmaceutical drug gets into the hands of the end patient.

We know that an estimated 1 percent (6.5 million) of the 6. 5 billion prescriptions filled at pharmacies in the U.S. are counterfeit, and keeping fake medications out of the pharma drug chain boils down communication and collaboration. It hasn’t been feasible, though. So, working with a public-private consortium from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), and more than a dozen other thought leaders, we came up a solution that makes it easy for manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and other dispensers to exchange and verify drug data.

To me, it’s the most impactful way to protect patients from the dangers of counterfeits. Our Contact and Verification Registry at minimum provides the most basic information about a drug from the FDA (and other sources) about recalls and other notices. With full manufacturers’ buy-in, we can digitize the pharmaceutical drug supply chain, from the manufacturer all the way through to the patient who receives the medication, so that any prescription drug can be traced back to and authenticated by the manufacturer.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

Number one would be transparency — where are the products sourced? Where do they come from? What goes into the generation of the cost? Because being more open with patients is necessary for and helps build trust, and I think that ranking came from a lack of trust in the system itself. So, I would start with transparency.

Secondly would be the cost itself — the way that the system negotiates pricing, not only of pharmaceuticals, but also medical devices, and services. Because that negotiation is really led by just a handful of companies, and that handful of companies is doing what’s in their best interest and what they believe is in the best interest of the patients. But patients themselves have a very small voice and minimal resources to be able to negotiate costs that are effective for their particular circumstances.

Lastly is connectivity — or really a lack of it. In the U.S. healthcare system, it’s very common for a patient to have a primary care provider, as well as specialists for different conditions. That sounds great, and, in theory, it should be. But there’s a huge disconnect between those providers, with each one focusing on their particular specialty and no one who oversees the holistic care of the whole person. The system is designed to incentivize short and speedy patient interactions with physicians, even the primary care provider, to maximize every dollar instead of maximizing care levels.

As a “healthcare insider”, If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

Going back to the issues I just spoke about, I’d address communication, transparency, costs, connectivity, and accessibility.

When we talk about accessibility and availability, it’s important to remember the various obstacles many people face in our healthcare system. Both in metropolitan areas and rural areas, we do have issues with availability and access to health care. We have a lack of synergy between our infrastructure and the healthcare system itself. So, for example, is there a bus or train or subway that I can take to the emergency room or a doctor’s appointment? If video appointments are available, do I have internet with enough bandwidth to access them?

What concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?

As individuals, we can use our voices to communicate how we feel about the healthcare system and demand change. We’ve never had a better opportunity than we have now, thanks to the internet, email, and social media, to voice opinions about change within the healthcare system and connect communities that can put pressure on

Corporations can have an impact when they’re looking at their benefits packages and establishing a company culture that values the mental and physical health of employees. All healthcare benefits should be fully backed by your company’s sick leave and vacation policies and enthusiastically supported by managers. Offer maternity leave, paternity leave, mental health leave, family health leave, etc, and really highlight the organization’s commitment to giving employees time to actually use these benefits without catching shade from managers and supervisors. It’s not enough if the benefits look great on paper but employees are discouraged from using them.

Communities have limited resources to devote to health care initiatives, so they tend to do things like holding rallying events like an oral healthcare day where they pass out toothbrushes. There’s so much more that can be done that would have a deeper impact. Information and accessibility are prime examples. Can all community members access their healthcare information by phone or on their computer? Does the community have updated internet and cellular connectivity? Can people who aren’t online and aren’t adept at using mobile services easily find information by other methods?

Leaders need to focus less on their own interests and more on efforts that center the interests of the people that they represent. Period.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system, leaving some hospital systems at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with us examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these issues moving forward?

The pandemic showed all of us how unprepared and fragmented our healthcare infrastructure was and still is.

Not only was there correct and incorrect assessments of treatment protocols, which is literally the practice of medicine, but also the resources that were (or weren’t) available. People weren’t able to get the care that they needed because of staffing shortages and breakdowns in our supply chains.

It comes down to establishing or updating systems that help us to prepare for these types of situations in in the future.

How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?

A common method deployed by our health system to cover the shortage of physicians by increasing the workloads of nurse practitioners. That is a band aid solution to a much larger problem.

We have to give attention to and reevaluate the way student loans function in the U.S. and understand that not everyone who is interested in becoming a physician comes from wealth. The cost of an education is a huge burden and it can take decades to pay off the loans necessary for many to complete their medical training.

In addition, physician pay and benefits should reflect their expertise and support their ability to provide quality patient care — rather than penalized for taking time to address patient needs as well as their own. Physicians should be encouraged to take the time they need to fully assess and treat patients. They should also be encouraged to take time off and supported when they elect to do so. At present, our healthcare system doesn’t let physicians do what they were trained to do. It puts patients on a conveyor belt that seriously restricts their interaction with their physicians.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?

Addressing student loan debt would be a great place to start.

Improving the medical education environment is another way we can attract and retain a more diverse population. Those are career decision-making years that shouldn’t be derailed by lack of access to housing, high quality food, transportation, and educational resources.

Diversity training within medical education should be mandatory and thorough, because how a doctor treats you can have a huge impact on your career trajectory. If you have good experiences with doctors, then you may be more inclined to follow that pursuit as an adult. But if you’re not exposed to that, or you have terrible experiences because it’s clear that medical practitioners don’t care about your segment of the community, your less likely to be attracted to healthcare as a career.

How do you think we can address the issue of physician and nurse burnout?

Medical practitioners are human. Like any other employee, they need time off, and they need support in taking that time off, especially given the immense workload they now have.

You know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Simply educating people about basic ways they can improve and maintain their own health would take a lot of pressure off of the healthcare system. A more unified and well-funded public healthcare system designed to perform widespread and constant public education would help reduce the number of urgent and chronic ailments.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Talk kindly to yourself.

We should treat ourselves the way that we would treat a close friend.

In my experience, whether as a patient, a technologist, or a business leader, I have found the most fruit has come from being kind to myself first, because that has always allowed me to be kind and patient with the people around me. Kindness goes such a long way.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Go to Trust.med to see how we’re using the internet to solve complex problems within healthcare.

We’re also on LinkedIn, where you can follow our innovations, product pilots, and industry insights.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.