The 2020 Medigy HITMC Awards were handed out a few weeks ago and we thought it would be nice to interview each of the winners so that the community can get to know them better. Over the next few months we’ll be publishing articles and videos of these interviews.
To kick things off, I sat down with the 2020 Health IT Advocate of the year – Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (aka @HealthyThinker). Sarasohn-Kahn is a fascinating person. I’ve had the privilege to get to know her over the years by bumping into her at various conferences and interacting with her on Twitter. I would highly encourage you to read her blog, Health Populi which is full of keen observations, amazing insights and spot-on editorial. She also has a book out: HealthConsuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizen
I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
What do you do?
“I advise, I speak and I write,” said Sarasohn-Kahn. “I do lots and lots of research. I read A LOT – from The Economist to The Financial Times to Rolling Stone to People Magazine everyday plus many [healthcare] industry publications.”
She weaves these diverse sources of information into a cohesive tapestry. I am totally in awe of her ability to find and make these connections. Sarasohn-Kahn is so articulate and measured in her arguments, you’ll slap your forehead that you didn’t see the link between A and B sooner.
“That’s basically what I do,” explained Sarasohn-Kahn. “Like mothers upset about Epipen prices as reported early in People magazine which led me to looking at PBMs and how they price Epipens. I weave all those bits together.”
Andre Blackman, founder of OnBoard Health, dubbed Sarasohn-Kahn the “Trend-weaver” many years ago and it’s an apt description of her.
How do you make those connections that others have trouble seeing?
“It’s in my DNA,” Sarasohn-Kahn revealed. “There is a writer’s gene that has given us [my relatives and I] the gift of being quick writers.”
It all started with Kasriel Sarasohn (1835-1905). Born in the Suwalki province in Russia, Kasriel immigrated to New York in 1871 where he founded the first American Yiddish weekly Di Yidishe Gazeten which, according to the Jewish Virtual Library “survived for more than half a century and paved the way for the first Yiddish daily in America, Yidishes Tageblat.”
“There are a lot of Sarasohns who write who I am related to distantly and some first cousins,” continued Sarasohn-Kahn. “David Sarasohn at the Oregonian and Sara Sarashon on NPR One – they are not first cousins but we are all related to Kasriel.”
In her off-hours Sarasohn-Kahn enjoys paper crafts – particularly collaging. She loves to cut things out and paste them into her journal. When we were all asked to shelter-in-place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for fun, she put together an ABC’s of COVID journal that’s full of headlines and images. “F”, for example, is for Fauci – as in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. [You’ll have to watch the video to get a glimpse of those pages in the COVID journal – video coming soon!].
“It’s how my brain works – making those types of connections. It’s what I’ve done my whole life.”
How did you become interested in healthcare?
“It was because of mom that I took an interest in healthcare,” shared Sarasohn-Kahn.
When she was very young, Sarasohn-Kahn’s mother developed a rare form of Leukemia at the age of 50 in 1971. Her prognosis was not good. Chemotherapy was not yet a common practice and there were very few treatment options available. Her mother managed to live another 8 years, in part because of a strong relationship with a hematologist. In 1979 at the age of 58 she passed away.
Sarasohn-Kahn became fascinated by the insurance bills that came In from Blue Cross Michigan (her mother was part of the school union). She was in disbelief that her father only had to pay for the TV and phone in the room. How is it possible that what should have cost $100K at the time was almost zero? “Who is paying for this?” – Jane asked herself.
That was her “first whiff that something ‘economic’ was going on in healthcare”, and from that point forward she decided to focus on the mysteries of healthcare economics.
What are you most proud of this past year?
“Getting my book published is #1,” admitted Sarasohn-Kahn. “I just needed to get the book done last year and the timing worked out. Now that we are in the COVID era – I look back at the theme of moving from a health consumer to a health citizen and it’s so relevant right now.”
She is also proud of the work she has been able to do on her blog which continues to grow and be a more accurate reflection of her true voice.
What was it like winning a 2020 Medigy HITMC Award?
“I talk about health and what builds health,” Sarasohn-Kahn mused. “Of course, technology is what makes health scale and helps get it to where it needs to go. When I advocate for Health IT, it’s more for overall health and the role that technology plays to drive health vs just for the tech itself. I don’t consider myself a communications expert or just a Health IT Advocate – so that fact that HITMC spotted that and called it out…well I was gobsmacked and so grateful.”
What are you working on next?
“I am updating the book, HealthConsuming, for the COVID era,” said Sarasohn-Kahn. “I hope to have that completed as an e-book in August.”
She is also writing a short e-book for October, just ahead of the November election, diving into health politics – public health, private health, privacy and broadband – aimed at educating voters who care about healthcare.
Watch the full interview
Watch my interview with Jane Sarasoh-Kahn as we talk about her work, her passion projects and how she does what she does. You’ll learn:
- How Sarasohn-Kahn forged her own unique post-graduate degree
- Why she believes there was a delay between the time in-person events were cancelled because of COVID-19 and when online events took off.
- What she believes will happen with healthcare conferences in 2021.
This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100