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Episode 38

How IDEAL 4 Healthcare is pioneering change in the healthcare industry

Jeff Howell (00:01):

Welcome to Home Health 360, a podcast presented by AlayaCare. I’m your host, Jeff Howell, and this is the show about learning from the best in home healthcare from around the globe.

Jeff Howell (00:19):

Hey listeners, thanks again for tuning in to Home Health 360 where we speak with leaders in home care and home health on this third Rock from the Sun. Today, I’m excited to have on a brand new organization that exists to provide meaningful tools to organizations and associations, ultimately catalyzing women in the healthcare industry to promote upward mobility and visibility. I wanna give you the website right now. It’s ideal for That’s ideal, the number four, And joining us today is Michelle Pickering, the executive director for Ideal. Michelle, I’m excited. Are you excited?

Michelle Pickering (01:00):

I’m thrilled, Jeff, I’m so excited to join you today and share more about our organization that we just launched officially on January 27th, so very excited to share more.

Jeff Howell (01:11):

I’m not often ahead of the curve, so I feel like I’m a bit of an early adopter here and, and I’m in the right place at the right time. So why don’t you give us a little bit of the wins and whys and what’s the origin story here behind Ideal?

Michelle Pickering (01:24):

Yeah, I think the short answer behind that is at Home Care 100 in 2002, a group of female leaders and pioneers in the healthcare industry were sitting around the evening watering hole and just started looking around and talking about the panels and all of the sessions that were being held. And we sat there and then we looked around at each of us and we looked around at the panelists and we said, wow, we don’t look the same <laugh>. So we really were not identifying with what was being presented up on stage with who the audience was. And so really trying to like come to grips with, you know, how that connected. And we realized we were, we were pretty angry. So we kind of started posting about it after, after Home Care 100 and really started talking about it. We took a photo that we used for our LinkedIn posts and we started getting more women giving us feedback and saying, yeah, what’s going on?


You know, and not that it’s the first time we identified it, but it is the first time we literally sat down at a conference and discussed it and discussed the disparity. So that was really kind of the impetus. And then Kristen Dole and Sonny Leinberger are founders, you know, took it a step further and they found it ideal officially. So they filed a business license, but really saw it as a way for us to catalyze women in the healthcare industry focused on giving them visibility, you know, because we really didn’t feel visible and, and really like, how can we offer them upward mobility? What are those paths to success? And really trying to build around that. There’s a US Health statistic report that’s out there that says women occupy 60 to 70% of the healthcare workforce, but we only occupy 10 to 12% of the high level leadership positions.


So really a problem, right? So not only were we not represented on stage, but we’re actually not represented in leadership yet. We’re three quarters <laugh> of the workforce. So additionally, there’s a pay statistic for healthcare that the report in 2021 said that it’ll take us 136 years to bridge the pay equity gap in the United States. Just crazy things for us to kind of, you know, envelop and kind of digest. And so really that was the impetus for the ideal launch, is really taking that and looking for ways to improve that for women. You know, really giving them a hand up, not a handout, but how can we make the path better for, you know, the folks coming up after us.

Jeff Howell (03:56):

Right. I love it. It’s 136 years, it’s like that like an asso tote in math where it’s like a line that keeps getting closer to another line, but it’s, it’s like never gets there

Michelle Pickering (04:07):

<Laugh>. Right, right, exactly.

Jeff Howell (04:10):

And then I think there was, I don’t know if it’s more anecdotal, but I, is there does anyone track anywhere what the participation rate on stage at home care and home health and, and healthcare conferences, what that looks like?

Michelle Pickering (04:23):

I don’t think there’s an actual tracking for that because there’s so many industry specific events, you know, across healthcare because it’s far outside of just home care, right? So we’re, you know, the entire post-acute environment as well as, you know, other aspects of the entire healthcare continuum, the, the acute environment, you know, medical clinics and whatnot. So I don’t think there’s any tracking in that, but you really don’t have to take it much further than just printing out kind of the top 10 industry events and taking a look at the speakers. So, you know, home Care 100, I mean, took it by the horns and I mean, you definitely wanna share with you all what, what a difference a year can make. But you know, it’s still very prevalent if you look at any healthcare industry event and look at the speakers and look at the audience and just see the disparity there. And, you know, it’s not, you know, we’re focused on women in healthcare, but it’s not just women, you know, it’s the, the entire diversity line. So while we wanna improve that for women, and we are very focused on that for women, just because of the workforce numbers that we have in healthcare, you know, it is something that, you know, eventually we wanna focus across the entire diversity line.

Jeff Howell (05:33):

Got it. So let’s talk about what you guys really do. Like, I think a big part of it, it’s a membership based organization where you can go and sign up. It’s a digital directory, it helps women get more opportunities to speak. Why don’t you bring me through what the, the top benefits would be for someone joining?

Michelle Pickering (05:54):

Yeah, absolutely. So at the end of January, officially February 1st, we moved to the paid membership model. So we did have members involved in the process, but as we worked through the not-for-profit status so that we could make it a more robust organization, we wanted to then move to a paid membership model because really to, to offer the things that we have, you know, we’d love to offer all of that for free, but it’s just not realistic. And so having to move to that paid membership model, we decided to make our membership much more robust. So not only do we have access to the digital community and speaking engagements and as well as our member meetings, but we also have added peer and mentor idea groups. So they’re essentially coaching sessions that put like positions together with a mentor or a leader who is in a C-suite level.


And those are offered on a monthly basis. We also do a professional PR and do member spotlights. So those will be four to five members a month that will get a spotlight a promotional campaign for themselves. You know, on our website we’re going to add virtual and in-person networking events on a regional basis starting the summer. And we’re gonna kick off an ideal annual conference in the fall. So that’s gonna bring together industry leaders on D E I B and women’s advocacy work, you know, specifically and really work on succession planning and leadership development. Because, you know, for women, it’s not just that we’re not invited, we also suffer from huge imposter syndrome issues. And so it’s also allowing us to get education and develop ourselves as leaders so that we have the confidence to step up, raise our hand, and ask for that leadership position.


You know, there’s a huge statistic out there right now that says, you know, women don’t negotiate pay, so let’s give people the confidence, let’s give them the skills. So it’s much more than just asking, you know, for a seat at the table asking for this, but also getting the confidence to actually propel themselves forward. They’ve done the work, now take the next step. So kind of working on things that will deal with that as well. There’s also an online community forum where they can ask the big questions anonymously. We can tackle regulatory issues, and that’s all available for our members access only. So just some really great things we’re offering discounts with our corporate sponsors who for event attendance, so, you know, maybe it wasn’t affordable prior, so maybe now they can actually get that discount they need to attend an event that can really help them propel their professional career. So different things like that. But there’s about now 15 to 18 membership benefits, and prior we only had about four or five. So we’re really just making those more robust and really ensuring that we’re able to help women in healthcare, you know, meet their mission.

Jeff Howell (08:43):

Yeah, I would even imagine that some of these, you know, enough discounts for some of the events that the sponsors are putting on that might pay for the, the membership entirely. I don’t know what the discounts would look like, but I would presume there’s some immediate pay payback there.

Michelle Pickering (08:58):

Oh, it’s incredible. So we also did definitely do value work against other organizations that were similar and none had the robust offerings that we had, but they’re all more expensive than we are. So no, we’re, we’re really proud of the value that is involved. And then plus a percentage of your membership is actually tax deductible, so they also can, you know, give back in that way. So no, we’re, we’re very, very proud. And we think too, there is a series of surveys that we’ll be doing with our members and regular polls so that we make sure that we’re actually meeting their needs. So if we need to pivot, we need to have different types of speakers or different types of education available for them, then we’ll most certainly pivot at that point so that we’re actually listening to our, you know, I mean that’s, that’s a big thing, right? Are we listening? We’re asking other people to listen, you know, so are we listening to our own members and make sure that, that we’re meeting their needs? So that’s a very important part of it as well, is just consistently keeping that line of communication open to make sure that we are giving them what they need.

Jeff Howell (10:01):

I’m fascinated by memberships and, and private communities particularly because when you get a cluster of people that have so such a, a niche interest in common and then you actually gate it with a price point, it really kind of keeps part-timers out. It gets a high caliber of a group focus together. And I think that’s really powerful.

Michelle Pickering (10:26):

Yeah. And, but we have made the price point at a place where even mid-management women can join us. That is the idea. We are not looking for a group of C-suite because the C-suites have made it, right. I have been a ceo, I’ve been a coo. I feel that I have achieved success in my career. So the goal is for that group, which you know, is our board to really, like I said, give that hand up to others coming to meet us. So we really do want to tackle that mid-management, early management people who will really benefit from the program in helping them have a more successful career path.

Jeff Howell (11:07):

Okay. And then are you able to share with me what the number of members you guys are at? Cause I think it was like a soft launch in April and you started I guess full-time in December, like what does the group look like now?

Michelle Pickering (11:21):

Yeah, well, currently we’re at 498 members. So those haven’t all been converted to paid because that liter legitimately started February 1st. So obviously we’re just in the informational, so, but we’re transferring them over and giving them you know, 30 to 60 days to sign up for the, for the new membership. And so, but yeah, we’re at 498 members and over 1500 followers on LinkedIn. And I mean, this is in such a short period of time. And just since we launched the new digital community in the last, you know, two weeks, we’ve actually added 300 followers on LinkedIn and 98 new members. So we’re very excited about it. And there’s definitely a lot of discussion and a lot of hope with women in the industry, and that’s something that, you know, is hard to come by.

Jeff Howell (12:11):

Right. So with respect to the, the healthcare continuum, you, you mentioned it’s really mostly post-acute. Like what would you find to be the breakdown between home care, home health, like is there a sense as to the spectrum of what service lines the members are in?

Michelle Pickering (12:28):

Yeah, I mean, predominantly because the founders are basically, you know, home care, right? Related hospice, palliative care, you know, home health, private duty. I think because the founders are that obviously the, the early migration has been towards predominantly home care related. And most of the events we’ve been participating in have been home care related, but we are starting to see a little movement towards the acute setting. And so that’s been pretty fascinating. And we haven’t even launched the campaign to, you know, move more into the medical clinics like imaging and, you know, anesthesiology and physicians groups and things like that. But we did have a physician join our board and so we’re pretty excited about what she’ll bring to the community as well. But you know, I, I mentioned sharing with you what a difference a year makes. So I mentioned us starting home care, you know, 120, 22 and no women in site, right?


But this year, so Lincoln Healthcare, who runs Home Care 100 really listened. I mean, it’s amazing. So they kicked off Home Care 100 with an all female panel for the first time in the history of the event. And so, and there was not a panel that did not have a female on it. And we finally looked around and said, wow, we have some real equity here. So our audience is starting to match our stage presence. And so that’s in one year. They also allowed us ideal to host a workshop within the D E I B session that allowed organizations to respond to a survey about what was going on with D E I B in their organizations. And then to spend time on a workshop to see how they could improve that. And so we had our ideal members mediating the tables and working with those organizations to help build a stronger roadmap. So it’s very exciting to see what you can do with such a, in such a short period of time. So I can’t even imagine now that we’re fully launched, what, what’s gonna happen.

Jeff Howell (14:26):

And I kind of feel that the perfect place for the seeds to be planted here is having drinks with some influential people at Home Care 100, and then it trickles down from there. That seems to be the, the perfect origin story for this.

Michelle Pickering (14:44):

Oh, it’s amazing. And I, I have to say we’re, we’re very, very close to signing five new sponsorship, which I hope to announce in the next seven to 10 days. And those are all incredible because they are doing exactly that. It’s, we sat down and said, Hey, what’s going on in your organization? What’s happening? And you know, they, and they took the bait. They said, Hey, we actually do need to do better at this. We need to know more about this. We want to support our teams. So tell me more. How can we help? How can we support? And so overwhelmingly, because you know, we’re not gonna just get this done with just women, we need our allies and our support with our male counterparts. And so we don’t ever want them to feel excluded or anything else because they’re also the best of the best. So you know, so that was important as well. And they’re the leaders of a lot of these organizations, right, that we wanna connect with and want to help them build their D E I B roadmaps with. So we’re pretty excited about those opportunities as well.

Jeff Howell (15:41):

So you’ve done a lot in the very first year. What’s the outlook for next year?

Michelle Pickering (15:46):

You know, I think our biggest priority is, you know, launching that nonprofit digital community and the paid membership model. And again, since that just took effect, you know, essentially February 1st, but now it’s really building on that ideal promise. So here are the membership benefits that we’re offering, so let’s make sure that they’re robust and fully available. And that really takes time. Cuz as our membership grows, it allows us to post more and offer more speaking engagements and get more sponsorship donors. And one of the exciting things we’re doing is signing on with healthcare recruiters who are actually going to use our site as exclusive job postings for some of the things that they’re getting on their hired recruiting. And so that’s very exciting as well. But I think also is really working for or with organizations across the healthcare continuum to either institute, implement or improve their D E I B roadmap.


And so that is a very strong part of our offering is that is is that with our sponsors. And so if we can take even five of the major organizations and really instill, you know, that D E I B, then that will be an accomplishment in itself. But I think also is just really paying attention to each women’s voice. One of the things that struck me lately, and somebody said this to me at a conference recently is every woman has a story. And so are we listening to those stories? Are we answering and solving, you know, the, for those questions in their stories and are we making a difference for them in their personal and professional goals? And so I think that those are, are projects for this year. So we are, you are going to start to see us at a lot of conferences and events. You know, every day that we sign a new corporate sponsor, you know, we’ll promote that, but also that outreach to additional aspects of healthcare. So we’re getting a good lockdown on just this and we have 4 98 members from, you know, the acute and post-acute space. What can we do if we, you know, further that mission across the entire healthcare continuum?

Jeff Howell (18:00):

And my next question was gonna be where are we gonna bump into you? And I suspect you guys will be at most of the state run home care show. Certainly you’ll be at Home Care 100 you’ll be a regular who’s who on the tour, right?

Michelle Pickering (18:14):

<Laugh>? Yeah, so absolutely. So we’re wor still working on our slate of events because we’ll add events as we also add sponsorships and association alignments. But right now absolutely we are just at Home Care 100. Most likely we’ll be at Lincoln Healthcare’s, h i two we’re a sponsor and working with Access’s Agile conference as well, which is in April and Dallas. And then the Home Care Expo in Washington, DC later this year. And of course, as I mentioned, our own inaugural ideal conference later for the fall.

Jeff Howell (18:49):

That’s probably the most exciting part of all this is the once a year bringing it all together where, you know, you, there’s nothing that can replace the hugs and handshakes in the industry.

Michelle Pickering (18:58):

Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree with that. Which is one of the reasons why it was important to start, you know, with the networking events. So we’re gonna take regional pods, you know, as part of our benefit offerings and host regional networking events. So those will be on a quarterly basis and we’re going to select locations where we have kind of, you know, a gaggle of women that all live in the same area that can get together in person. So we connect so much on LinkedIn and so much virtual connection and all of that, but it really doesn’t take the place of being able to shake somebody’s hand and be able to, you know, just share vision and, and look into someone’s eyes and really, you know, feel like enveloped in the mission. So we’re looking forward to adding those starting this summer.

Jeff Howell (19:40):

Right. And is it just you full-time right now or what does the team look like?

Michelle Pickering (19:45):

No, it’s just me full-time, but I have a very engaged and active board. And so I think probably about mid-year we will add another associate. But you know, this is also like a labor of love and so, you know, right now we have to be a little shoestring until we get going and that’s okay with me. So as I’m passionate about it, it’s a good time, you know, for me personally and professionally to take this on and it’s really I was feeling a little stale in terms of the passion each morning and now I wake up and I just can’t believe I get to do this.

Jeff Howell (20:21):

Yeah, I love it. So if I’m a member, I noticed that you guys have your pricing right on your website. Is there anything else that are requirements to be able to become a member? Like what does the signing up to be a member experience look like?

Michelle Pickering (20:36):

Yeah, no, it’s really not hard. So you can actually be a male to sign up. We call you an ally. And so there’s nothing wrong. It’s not, it’s not exclusive for women’s, not the club because the movement is, you know, about women, but it’s not only for women. So we encourage everybody who’s interested in the movement to please sign up and support us and, you know, be part of, be part of our path forward. But no, the monthly membership is, is $50 a month, the annual membership is 500. So obviously there’s a, a good discount for, you know, signing up annually. We’re doing early member discounts you know, for our members throughout the month of February. And so just some exciting things for them to, you know, knock a little bit more off that cost. But that it’s, it’s pretty simple.


We do really hope that people will take time to fill out the profile information cuz that really helps us support them in a more robust way. It tells us, you know, their needs, where they’re at in their career, what their interests are, so that that way when we do have a job posting or we have a speaker engagement or we have a board setting, we can actually link up the appropriate members and make sure we broadcast out those if in case they’re not checking the website. So it really helps in terms of, you know, helping us meet their needs. And so we do ask that they really try to be as more as robust as they can in filling out their profile and giving us as much information as they need. One of the cool things we are doing over the next few weeks is actually hosting a series of ideal informational calls that, you know, we go over the benefits of membership, the benefits of corporate sponsorship, other ways to contribute you know, as well as answer any of their personal questions that they might have. So we’re doing kind of smaller groups informational sessions where we kind of go over all that value as well as answer their questions.

Jeff Howell (22:33):

What’s the easiest path for a sponsor to get involved?

Michelle Pickering (22:37):

You know, the easiest path is just to have a, want to do better. There’s really no other way to say that is if they have a desire to, as I mentioned, institute add, improve their D E I B program, then we will work with them to achieve that. We will help them build their roadmap. We actually will only accept sponsors. We don’t expect them to be perfect. We don’t expect them to have a robust D E I B program to sponsor with us. But what we do ask them, and it’s in their agreement, is that they do will follow the ideal promise that they will allow us to actually do a D E I B survey with their entire organization. And we actually synthesize the results for them. We allow their employees to remain anonymous and then we can help them build their roadmap to success. So if they are not willing to agree that or go down that road, then unfortunately they’re probably not the right, you know, alignment for us. And so we really feel that instead of being perfect, let’s help you get there. And so those are really the best kind of sponsors for us. So really a lot of them have reached out to us, but of course we’ll be reaching out to them as well.

Jeff Howell (23:48):

<Laugh> <laugh>. Well Michelle, I’m, I was excited at the beginning of this episode and I’m excited for you because it really hit home when you said like being excited to get out of bed every day and because you’re, you’re not just doing work, you’re doing some really great work and it’s inspiring to see that, you know, I think that you’re probably gonna be doing your part to shrink down those 136 years to narrow that pay equity gap

Michelle Pickering (24:14):

A hundred percent. I mean, that is my biggest reason for being here. So I, like I mentioned, I’ve had success and I really wanna give back at this point. I really do want to make it easier for women who have paid their dues and done the right thing and are excellent, you know, at what they do and are experts and give them the opportunity to, to lead others coming behind them. And so, yeah, it’s, it’s a very important thing. I don’t really want other folks to have to walk my path.

Jeff Howell (24:47):

So I see your email address right in the footer of the website. I’m presuming if someone is on the site and then they might have any more questions. Is your email the right one to reach out to for now?

Michelle Pickering (24:59):

Absolutely. So [email protected]

Jeff Howell (25:03):

Well Michelle, thank you for coming on today. I am definitely gonna post on my LinkedIn tomorrow to get people excited about this episode, which should be out in two to four weeks. And I’m gonna be following closely along, you just you just got one more LinkedIn page follower cause I’m excited to see what you guys do.

Michelle Pickering (25:21):

Thank you Jeff, and thanks so much for the platform to share our program with you. I really appreciate it.

Jeff Howell (25:26):

My pleasure.

Jeff Howell (25:28):

Home Health 360 is presented by AlayaCare. First off, I wanna thank our amazing guests and listeners. To get more episodes, you can go to, that’s spelled Home Health 360, or Search Home Health 360 on any of your favorite podcasting platforms. The easiest way to stay up to date on our new shows is to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. We also have a newsletter you can sign up for on to get alerts for new shows and more valuable content from all I Care right into your inbox. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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Home Health 360 - Episode 38

Episode Description

Michelle Pickering, Executive Director of IDEAL, shares how IDEAL is striving to eliminate obstacles organizations and women face in the healthcare industry and solutions for how agencies and providers can create opportunities for women to stay in the healthcare industry and promote upward mobility and visibility.

Episode Resources