Jane Sarasohn-Kahn: Health economist and trend weaver

"Health is where we live, work, play and pray. It's really everybody's responsibility."
By Scott Tharler
08:03 AM

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn is passionate about collecting and constructing LEGO bricks because she truly embraces the Danish phrase from which the brand derived its name: 'leg godt,' meaning 'play well.'

In a playful mix of business and art, Sarasohn-Kahn clips her favorite publications (Rolling Stone, The Economist, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker) and adds fabric to create mixed media collages.

But scrapbooking isn't just what she does, it's how this trend weaver thinks: "I see health everywhere, at the grocery store, in the car — it's just my lens on things. And then I look at the economics and at the market."

In a management consulting career spanning over 20 years, Sarasohn-Kahn has focused entirely on healthcare. She is quite active as both a business and conference speaker and columnist on such platforms as the Huffington Post, Twitter (@healthythinker) and her own Health Populi blog.

And at HIMSS15, she will serve as a Social Media Ambassador, one of the elite influencers credentialed to attend and cover the conference via their preferred channels.

The most profound positive disrupter in her life was meeting the man she's now been happily married to for 28 years. Robert, an international investment banker, had moved to London while the two were courting. After marrying, she joined him there.

Even in the late 80s and early 90s, England had some semblance of electronic health records.

"That's when I cut my teeth on information technology, working with National Health Service hospitals," Sarasohn-Kahn said. At the same time, she also worked with the emerging private (for-profit healthcare) sector in Europe. That's when Sarasohn-Kahn recalls first being exposed to what we now call The Triple Aim.

"We have so much to learn from governments who fund healthcare in a restrained or constrained kind of a way. It really creates an innovation lab, because you have to do things differently within a budget," she observed.

With a focus directed at the intersection of tech, health and people, she returned to the States. Then the Internet hit healthcare and her whole world lit up.

Fast forward to today, when patients search symptoms online, download apps aplenty, join social networks and crowdsource cures. 

Now Sarasohn-Kahn mostly works with clients in food (think healthy labels and more accessible nutrition), consumer technology and foundations looking at healthy cities. Her mission is to "help people live better and in a DIY sense, creating health at home, outside of the doctor's office."

Sometimes this means looking beyond the Uber or Amazon speed and convenience we Americans rely on, to take fewer shortcuts in how we eat and treat health problems.

Sarasohn-Kahn walks the talk as a practitioner of the Slow Food movement, looking at food as a vehicle for "healthy, positive, mindful living." Her reasoning speaks volumes about her values: "When you think about your food system, it's not just healthier and kinder to the environment — and it tastes good — but it's also an economic engine for communities."

On the problematic side, one unhealthy mindset she'd like to help eradicate is overtreatment. "A lot of people in America think more treatment means better," she explained. "In fact, we know the more you do to somebody, the sicker they can get, statistically speaking."

She also notices a backward trend concerning healthcare's quality and cost. Many in this ACA era of high deductible health plans are mistakenly visiting expensive Emergency Rooms versus a retail clinic for minor maladies. Sarasohn-Kahn warns: "If you walk into an ER, you're going to walk out a lot poorer — and possibly sicker."

Ultimately, her answer in both cases is to empower and activate consumers through "self-care." That's where she sees her work evolving, bringing together the ecosystem's patients, caregivers and companies with better-designed health solutions.

Or put simply: Healthcare needs to be right-sized, less about volume and more about value.

Want to get more stories like this one? Get daily news updates from Healthcare IT News.
Your subscription has been saved.
Something went wrong. Please try again.