Rich Temple of Deborah Heart & Lung Center On How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives

By virtue of 5G technology’s vastly improved speed, capacity, and latency, it offers the potential to make ideas that seemed impossible come to life. Things like “smart roads” and fully driverless, autonomous cars that can pick up signals from road sensors and communicate with each other as to where they are going, Deployed correctly, this will reduce the “human factor” on roads and allow for much improved and safer mobility.

5G infrastructure is being installed around the world. At the same time, most people have not yet seen what 5G can offer. What exactly is 5G? How will it improve our lives? What are the concerns that need to be addressed before it is widely adopted?

5G is a revolutionary new wireless technology that offers dramatically faster speeds (downloads up to 100 times faster than 4G), near-zero latency (the time it takes from the initiation of an electronic request to the time that request is received), and infinitely more capacity for many users and devices to access a finite amount of bandwidth. It has staggering potential to transform our lives through facilitating the exchange of immense amounts of data almost instantaneously with computers, — so-called “internet of things” or IoT devices (think of cameras, smart refrigerators, traffic sensors in roads, soil sensors on farms, things like that). While going from 3G to 4G was a huge leap forward which allowed consumers to (relatively) quickly download movies and stream TV shows to their phones, 5G goes way beyond that in terms of quickness and sheer volume of data that can be exchanged in real-time.

While the evolving rollout of 5G networks is truly exciting, it bears noting that what is being rolled out to consumers right now is more of a hybrid of 4G and 5G services. 5G runs at a much higher frequency than 4G does, which, without getting too much into geek-speak, means that 5G wireless signals don’t travel as far as 4G signals. What the major wireless carriers are doing to address this is to add small signal “extenders” to carry signals further. These extenders are generally about the size of a pizza box and many, many of them have to be installed on light poles or other surfaces along that line. Not all areas lend themselves to being able to have a dense network of these “extenders”, so a challenge might be to manage consumers’ and businesses’ expectations of how they will realize the full potential of 5G in the near-term. We will get there with full 5G, but we are not yet there.

In our series, called, How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives, we are talking to tech and telecom leaders who can share how 5G can impact and enhance our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rich Temple, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, for the Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, NJ.

Rich Temple has over 30 years of healthcare experience at all levels. He is currently the Vice President / Chief Information Officer for the Deborah Heart and Lung Center, an 89-bed nationally renowned cardiovascular specialty hospital in Browns Mills, NJ. Rich also serves as Deborah’s HIPAA Security Officer, overseeing all security policies to ensure that patients’ highly confidential medical data remains inaccessible to all except those with a legitimate need to view it. Prior to his role at Deborah, Rich spent a number of years in the consulting space including stints as the founder of Richard Temple & Associates, a consultancy specializing in healthcare advisory and strategy as well as serving as the National Practice Director for IT Strategy for Beacon Partners (now KPMG). Additionally, Rich has also worked as Vice President / Chief Information Officer for both the Saint Clare’s Health System in Denville, NJ and for AristaCare Health Services, which runs several long-term care facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Earlier in his career, Rich also worked for McKesson Provider Technologies and Health Management Systems, helping create and maintain systems that allowed health care providers to maximize their bottom lines, while strictly adhering to all regulatory mandates.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

It’s funny, many years ago when I entered college at the University of Rochester, I had my eyes on a Computer Science degree. However, it was so long ago (really showing my age here), that there wasn’t really a defined path to getting this type of degree. I was put in a programming course as my first Computer Science course and I did well in that course — I am wired like a programmer in many respects. However, the second course I was assigned was a course in “Machine Language”, which, in essence, represents the zeroes and ones that computers read at their core in order to execute commands. I sat in that class for two weeks and realized that I didn’t understand a single thing they were talking about — it was much more engineering-focused — and, as a result, I completely bailed on Computer Science and went all in on something that I loved, Political Science. I went to grad school at the University of Pittsburgh and got an MBA with a concentration in Marketing (again, not one of the super-hard skills that MBAs often have straight out of business school). I worked in healthcare bill collections for a while and learned the healthcare third-party insurance space. While working there, I took some post-graduate courses in computer systems at Baruch College in New York City and, while there, was introduced to a company called Health Management Systems by the Baruch Careers office. I interviewed there, clicked with them, and the rest is history.

I often say that healthcare is like the “Hotel California”. Once you are in it, it’s hard to get out, there is such an allure to it. “You can check out any time, but you can never leave.”

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

I had been working at McKesson Provider Technologies as the Executive Director of Systems and Technology Solutions for the arm of McKesson that ran business offices for hospitals and medical practices. I was really quite happy doing what I was doing there. One day, I received a call from a friend and colleague asking if I knew anyone who might be interested in a CIO job at a hospital in the general vicinity. Quickly, I responded, “hey, I think I see someone in my mirror who might be interested.” I wasn’t sure I was qualified, but somehow I recognized that a door was potentially opening. I got my resume updated, threw my hat into the ring, and, serendipitously, I went through the interview process and got an offer. I had to learn a lot on the job about the core responsibilities of a CIO, but I had a wonderful team who educated me, inspired me, and supported me. And, from that point on, I would have real CIO experience under my belt.

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

If I can steal a tag line from Nike, I believe my favorite “life lesson quote” is “just do it.” I say that without in any way encouraging people to go rogue on their employers or to be insubordinate to their leaders or to not apply wisdom and due diligence to any decision that we as professionals are entrusted to make. I have applied this lesson in my life to respect my instincts and, if something feels right, to dive in deeper. Sometimes it works well, and sometimes reality means that one has to retrench and re-evaluate. That is not a bad thing. I think it is better to have put oneself out there and tried something than to have allowed fear of failure or fear of the unknown to have held you back from something wonderful.

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?

Thank you for the opportunity to call out someone who has had a tremendous impact on who I turned out to be from a professional and personal perspective. I had mentioned earlier that I got connected with a company called Health Management Systems (HMS) in New York City, while I was taking some post-graduate courses at Baruch College. HMS found a lot of value in recruiting young and talented people and, while they were a very informal company, they took the business side of their culture very seriously. I had an interview with a gentleman named Joe O’Connor who was telling me about some of the projects they were working on and explaining a bit about their technology. In my excitement to learn more (remember, I was still young and — how shall I say — not quite so polished back then), I got up from my chair, almost jumped over his desk, and went over to his side of the desk to see what he was showing me. Normally, that would be quite a breach of decorum, but, happily, I did it to the right guy. He was impressed with my zeal and brought me on-board. Over the years, he became both a close friend and a mentor — encouraging my enthusiasm for learning and building systems, but straightening out some rough edges in my professional persona, while keeping work truly fun. I think I am so much better off in so many ways — as are many people who were under Joe’s wing — for the opportunity to work with him.

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 would like to be remembered by my peers for always being enthusiastic and positive. I always try to find a way to be able to say “yes” to my customers since, if they didn’t need something, they wouldn’t be asking for it. I have been out in the real world enough to realize that you can’t always “yes” people, and there are often financial, operational, or staffing constraints that preclude your ability to fulfill every request. But, if you can get people to realize that you are sincere when you start from a premise of “yes”, when you can’t do something, they are better able to accept the declination and continue to work with you in a positive manner. Years ago, I was in a consulting situation where I had to — fairly quickly — into the consulting engagement — tell a large healthcare organization how dysfunctional they were in order to build a suite of recommendations for improvement and transformation. As you can imagine, they didn’t receive the feedback terribly well, and reacted accordingly. Also exacerbating things was that this was a primarily rural healthcare system and the New Yorker with the funny accent was telling them these things. I was almost removed from the customer’s account but they told me that they saw that I had a good heart and I really wanted to help them make things better and they retained me. The project wound up being very successful and many of these folks are now lifelong friends of mine.

I would also want to be remembered as a leader who treats others the way he or she would want to be treated. I would always want people to take care of any kind of family needs in an appropriate manner, even if it diverts them from work for a time. Work is extremely important, but family wins the grand prize on the priority scale. If I have concerns or objections with aspects of someone’s performance, I do not call them out in front of their peers, we sit down privately and discuss it and plot out a constructive way forward.

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

One of the things that keeps me entranced with being in healthcare is the fact that everything any of us do has a positive impact on sick patients, whether we are directly laying hands on patients or not. Deborah Heart and Lung Center has always been renowned for the quality of our cardiovascular and pulmonary care and the kindness we display toward patients and families. One of our exciting new projects recognizes how care has evolved and how patients desire to interact with their healthcare providers from a digital perspective. We are looking to deploy what we are calling the “Oh Wow! Patient Experience”. That moniker came from our President and CEO, Joseph Chirichella, and what it means is that, at every touchpoint a patient has with us, be it while they are here or while they are at home trying to schedule an appointment or inquire of us with a medical question, we want them to come away from their encounter with us saying “Oh Wow, that was the best encounter I have ever had with a healthcare provider.” This program takes on many forms including using secure texting to communicate back and forth with patients, more expeditiously routing calls to the right person instead of bouncing people from department to department, allowing for checking in and the “new patient clipboard questionnaire” to be completed on-line in advance of a patient visit, and many other components. It’s so exciting to be a part of a project like this, which takes our patient care in a whole new direction, and helps blaze the trail for new and more digitally based models of care that we can bring to our community.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Like 4G, 5G has many different facets, and I’m sure many will approach this question differently. But for the benefit of our readers can you explain to us what 5G is? How is 5G different from its predecessor 4G?

5G technology is a new wireless technology that runs on different frequencies and has a fundamentally different technology configuration than 4G. Without getting too technical, it allows for exponential faster downloads, quicker response to requests from wireless devices (such as downloading a movie or opening a web page), and much, much greater capacity to support more devices on a given wireless network.

Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.

By virtue of 5G technology’s vastly improved speed, capacity, and latency, it offers the potential to make ideas that seemed impossible come to life. Things like “smart roads” and fully driverless, autonomous cars that can pick up signals from road sensors and communicate with each other as to where they are going, Deployed correctly, this will reduce the “human factor” on roads and allow for much improved and safer mobility.

From a healthcare perspective, 4G technology made the “virtual visit” possible, which proved so valuable to patients and clinicians during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. 5G takes that many steps further and allows for super high-resolution visits and the ability to more easily share critical clinical data with other doctors in other parts of the country, or the world for that matter. An example would be having to send a complex MRI study to a doctor somewhere else. These studies can be up to one gig in size, which is huge, and would take a very long time to send from Point A to Point B in a 4G world. 5G technology would allow that to happen almost instantly, thereby reducing geographic barriers in allowing patients from anywhere access to the best patient care possible.

Also, as we look at artificial intelligence and robotics in the operating room, the precision required to successfully make this work requires an unbelievable amount of individual data points from a wide array of individual devices. And this all has to happen in near real-time, as the potential consequences of making decisions on data that is not the absolute latest data can be dire. With the dramatic improvements in speed, capacity, and latency (latency being the time it takes for a data request to be received after it has been sent), this type of technology becomes much more real.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?

From a Black Mirror dystopic type of perspective, I am not losing too much sleep. However, although the overall cybersecurity profile in 5G is vastly improved over 4G, the sheer number of devices that become targets for compromise grows exponentially, just as the sheer number of devices that 5G can support grow exponentially. So, extreme cybersecurity rigor must continue to be applied to all of these devices as well as the general 5G platform itself. A bigger attack surface — that is, more devices — brings more opportunities for risk and the diversity of different types of IoT devices also poses unique and, frankly, somewhat unchartered challenges.

Some have raised the question that 5G might widen the digital divide and leave poor people or marginalized people behind. From your perspective, what can be done to address and correct this concern?

With broadband technology being an essential commodity at this point, one does have to worry about business decisions that may be made wherein carriers or other organizations don’t see the financial value of lighting up rural or otherwise underserved areas with 5G. This is of particular concern, too, with rural areas from a healthcare perspective, as 5G could be of immense benefit to people living far away from medical centers and other forms of care by allowing robust virtual visits and ancillary services without the need to visit a medical provider in-person.

Excellent. We are nearly done. Let’s zoom out a bit and ask a more general question. Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career in the telecommunication industry? (Please share a story or example for each.)

You need to have some technical acumen, to be sure, but I am a big believer in the value of soft skills and a big believer in presenting actionable data and information wherever and whenever they need it to make informed decisions. Being able to relate to people, articulate, and sell a vision to them is particularly valuable. I have been a huge advocate for robust business intelligence platforms wherever I have been in my career and, while everyone resonates with the idea, in principle, these systems had, historically, been overpriced and underused. At my current role at Deborah, I was able to get everyone on-board with purchasing a BI system that integrated seamlessly with our electronic health record, and it has been a huge asset to our ability to provide world-class care and hold each other accountable.

Also, know your business. Don’t view your role in a one-dimensional space. Always strive to understand the larger context for everything you are doing. Not only will you be able to contribute more effectively, but also you will derive much greater career satisfaction recognizing and celebrating the impact you are having day-to-day.

Finally, make it fun! I have had people at my hospital ask me why it appears that I am always in a good mood. And I generally am frequently in a very good mood. I love what I do. By making your day-to-day work fun, it makes you physically and psychologically healthier and better able to contribute and derive gratification, both at work and on the personal front.

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. 🙂

Work hard, play hard, and treat others the way you would want to be treated. If we could all strive to recognize people for their humanity and cut out petty office politics and grievances, we would all be happier and, certainly, more productive.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn —

Twitter — @richtemplecio

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.


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