Mike Butler retired as President of Providence Health in October 2020 after spending 22 years in leadership at the health system, serving previously as CFO and COO. He led much of Providence's unprecedented growth, from a $2 billion organization to $25 billion. After leading the 3rd largest healthcare system in the U.S., Mike created a personal mission checklist as he explored business opportunities post-retirement. Singletto checked all the boxes. In this piece, we talk to Mike about his experiences in healthcare leadership and the application of such to Singletto.
Q. First things first, why Singletto? With a myriad of opportunities at your doorstep post-Providence, why did you choose to join the Singletto team?
A. At the recommendation of a recently retired friend, I sat down and wrote a mission statement after I retired. I decided I only wanted to work with authentic, pioneering people with humanitarian spirits who really wanted to make all human beings' lives healthier going forward and achieve excellence doing such. Having had such a wonderful career at Providence – filled with innovation and growth – I wanted to be sure whatever I did next was equally as purposeful.
Once I met with John [Singletto CEO] and then the rest of the Singletto team, I knew I had found the perfect match. Singletto has excellent company culture and brilliant people who want to make real and immediate differences. Everyone is aligned in mission to make a difference in the world by helping make lives healthier.
After hearing about Singletto’s mission and technology, I felt I had a moral obligation to help get it to market. I genuinely believe it has life-saving potential and is needed in the healthcare environment and beyond now. The technology is simple; it’s based on hundred-year-old principles of Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). It only requires light, color, and oxygen to destroy pathogens. It’s so simple, yet so powerful.
Q. Having just retired as President of a large health system, what do you believe are the biggest challenges in the healthcare community?
A. Affordability and access have always been a challenge. Determining how best to provide access for all, and at affordable rates. But right now, safety is the number one challenge and should be the number one concern of all health systems. Early on in the pandemic, 1 in 7 nurses was becoming infected with COVID. Many hospitals have seen up to a 40% first-year turnover primarily due to fears, burnout, and safety concerns. I have sadly heard of more contemplated suicides in the healthcare space this past year than ever before. The tolls are big. It's heartbreaking.
Obviously, nurse, doctor, and employee physical, mental, and emotional health is essential for hospital systems' well-being and ability to provide patient care. If they aren't physically and emotionally healthy, they can't provide the critical care patients need. We, collectively, need to work every day to provide safer environments for health workers and patients alike. I believe our technology is undoubtedly part of the solution for preventing sickness, eliminating stress, and increasing well-being.
Q. How do you think Singletto’s technology is best positioned to address such?
A. Singletto is really on the frontlines of protection and prevention. The technology will allow healthcare systems to get way ahead of the curve in creating healthier environments, healthier employees, and healthier patients from the get-go.
Singletto's technology can allow consumers and healthcare systems to be proactive, not reactive. By implementing Singletto technology in common wearables, the wearer can be actively protected from pathogens. While the world rightly continues to be focused on the coronavirus, we can't forget that they are a host of dangerous pathogens around us every day, like colds and flu. We need protection from all of this – and whatever strain of coronavirus is next.
Further, Healthcare-Associated infections (HAIs) are of great concern to patients and healthcare workers alike. We have made some progress but are nowhere near close to eliminating such – i.e., HAIs like sepsis, UTIs, etc. There is always the risk of patients contracting HAIs in invasive procedures; but, even the simple task of healthcare workers changing shoe covers can lead to healthcare worker infection. This is why having products like PPE, drapes, gowns, etc., that can proactively self-decontaminate is so important.
Q. Talk about the PPE shortages we saw in the past year. How are supply chains evolving and how does Singletto fit into the new paradigm?
A. After the 2008 recession, much of the PPE manufacturing supply chain was moved offshore for various reasons. Priorities for PPE manufacturing were focused on low-cost and "just in time" availability. The current pandemic exposed the weaknesses of this approach. The pandemic increased demand for PPE worldwide, exposed the lack of onshore inventory, created price gauging, and led to a host of hospital systems issues. I believe PPE providers should now be focused on: onshore manufacturing, inventory guarantees and predictable supplies, more effective products (i.e., that go beyond just trapping pathogens), products that bring value beyond low cost, and products that serve multiple purposes.
Our goal at Singletto is to embed our pathogen-destroying technology into nearly every single product a healthcare worker wears. Healthcare workers could essentially become walking decontaminators with PPE that is just as clean, bacteria-free, and virus-free once they doff it as when they donned it. Not only will this make healthcare workers safer in times of emergency PPE re-use, but it will also make them safer daily from a host of pathogens. Health workers should be wearing gear that actively kills pathogens rather than just trapping them. That's where Singletto can come in.
From the production side, we have a technology that is easy to build into the manufacturing process. For health systems, in the short-term, we believe this technology can reduce the spread and keep more people healthy. Long-term, we believe this technology will bring value by increasing safety, improving morale and job satisfaction, increasing productivity, reducing sick time, lowering burnout rates, and reducing costs of employer healthcare.
Q. What is your advice for health systems considering the implementation of this technology?
A. We need to move fast. The technology is based on Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) principles used medically for a hundred years. The new application of such has been proven by a 52-researcher worldwide study led by the WHO and with CDC involvement. PPE must evolve from pathogen-trapping to pathogen-destroying. We have a moral obligation to get this technology embedded in PPE now to protect and maintain patients' and caregivers' health.
Q. In your opinion, what makes this technology different from those you have been introduced to formerly in your career?
A. Other decontamination methods like UV Light or Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide are equipment reliant, often expensive, and take process. Singletto’s protective dye solutions can simply be sprayed on or embedded in PPE and require no additional machinery or process. Further, this technology is affordable, safe, and perpetual. While I have seen several anti-bacterial or anti-virus embedded technologies, I haven't seen one that checks all the boxes till now: safe, affordable, perpetual, and non-equipment reliant.
Q. Finally, for people who haven't yet heard of Singletto, can you describe the following in one word:
-Singletto Culture: I have two words. Chemistry and Conviction. The chemistry of this team is insanely awesome. The conviction each team member has, from our business leaders to our scientists and researchers, everyone wants to bring this technology to market and truly help people.
-Singletto People: Smart … and Fun. There is a lot of humor in this group. If you don't have great team chemistry, if you don't have humor, if you don't have joy in the work you do, why bother? I am lucky to have found all three at Singletto.
-Singletto Technology: Effective. Period. There is so much noise right now, and I love that our technology is simple, affordable, and proven effective.
-Singletto Innovation: Genius. I say that not because the tech is brand new, but because it's been used forever, just not in this way. The application of technology in novel ways is nothing short of genius.
-Singletto Mission: Health. We are trying to give every human being the possibility to be as healthy as possible regardless of their situation.
The Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology medical journal has published the peer-reviewed DeMaND study. Singletto’s Dr. Tom Lendvay served as Lead Author.
Mike Butler spent over two decades in leadership at Providence Health, growing such from a $2 billion organization to $25 billion. Upon recently retiring, Mike knew he wanted to find ways to continue impacting the lives and health of others. Now at Singletto, Mike is on a mission to bring the novel Singletto technology to market – in healthcare and beyond. But, it’s not just a passion project … upon learning about the technology, Mike felt a moral obligation to get it in as many hands as possible. More with recently retired Providence Health President Mike Butler…
Dr. Belinda Heyne was recently featured in a CBC piece covering the DeMaND study’s findings and the life-giving potential of dye and light.
The World Health Organization (WHO) just added Methylene Blue and Light as a supported Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) decontamination method in the “Rational use of personal protective equipment for COVID-19 and considerations during severe shortages” interim guidelines.