Posted On: January 8, 2013 @ 5:35 pm Category: Interviews | Tags:

Jane Sarasohn-KahnOn the eve of the first day of CES 2013, we interviewed health economist and management consultant Jane Sarasohn-Kahn. We spoke with Jane, who blogs at Health Populi, about the current state of digital health and what she is looking forward to seeing at CES this year.

The interview was conducted on Twitter between Jane’s Twitter account, @HealthyThinker, and our own @CESHealth account. The following is a recap of our discussion with Jane. You can see the original interview by viewing the #uhcces hashtag on Twitter.

Jane, your bio says you are a health economist. Please explain what that means.

Health economics is concerned with how resources come into the health system and how they are deployed. Health economics seeks cost-effectiveness, innovation, and what’s called “Triple Aim” – how to expand health care access, improve the experience and reduce costs. My research and counsel focuses on how to leverage health technologies for that Triple Aim. Triple Aim is also about enhancing quality and patient experience in health care, which technology can help with.

You started 6+ yrs ago. In blog speak, that’s forever. What are your goals with the blog?

I started HealthPopuli to share my perspective on the big issues facing health care consumers and the industry. I’ve worked with health stakeholders as strategic counsel for more than 20 years, so it’s time to share what I’ve learned. So much in United States health care lacks transparency – HealthPopuli wants to shine light on key issues in health. Another goal is to de-hype the hype circle that health technology often suffers from, particularly on a week like this!

In a recent post you write about how cost-conscious consumers are turning to new tools to manage health expenses, including online cost tracking tools. What do you think is finally driving adoption of these services?

Generally, health care consumers are starting to pay more out-of-pocket expenses and make more decisions. Especially with consumer-directed plans, there is a need for transparency and tools to manage these plans when the consumer is forced to take on more responsibility. These tools also help to ramp up health care knowledge, which is important because there is a huge amount of health plan illiteracy, even among very smart people. New health plan types confound people. Growth in consumers’ out-of-pocket costs is also driving people to research options for pharmacies and hospitals. The challenge is design, making online health tools engaging and useful in the eyes of health care consumers.

Do you currently use any apps or products to help manage your health and wellness?

I use FitBit, BodyMedia, Withings Scale, LoseIt!, Mayo Clinic Meditation app, MedHelp Portal, and many others. I often get asked which mobile health and digital health apps and tools I like, so I try to keep up, which is why I’m here at CES. I’m particularly excited to receive my Misfit Wearables Shine sensor in a month or two when it’s manufactured; it’s got a nice design! Sonny Vu at Misfit Wearables is all about designing sensor/health tools that are useful and delightful in everyday items.

My personal frustration with mobile health apps is it takes heavy lifting to integrate my personal data from different apps and tools.

You just landed in Vegas for CES 2013. What products or presentations are you excited to see this week?

This week at CES, I’m keen to see digital health tools that integrate date and send back actionable advice to users. I’m also keen to talk with vendors about their value proposition to consumers who are considering paid tools and apps.  The presentation tomorrow on Wellocracy launch (Silvers Summit at 4:05pm PST) will also be fascinating. The challenge with CES and the Digital Health Summit is there are too many presentations at the same time, plus more than 200 exhibitors in health. I need cloning and comfy shoes!

Digitalhealth is one of the fastest growing segments in the entire #CES program. What do you make of that?

Digital health is a fast-growing track at CES because the health industry makes up 1/5 of the United States’ economy! It also helps that tools are getting cheaper and better. Health is where we live, work, play, and pray according to U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamen – meaning that health care is everywhere. Most people are facing more out-of-pocket health costs and are looking to more for themselves through do-it-yourself health care. In the post-recession era, do-it-yourself health care is growing – there are more over-the-counter drugs, more retail health clinics, mobile health is more popular and there are more health apps.

Here’s a broad one – What’s the biggest opportunity you see in the convergence of health care and technology?

There are health disparities – many people who are the sickest, with chronic diseases, don’t use tools very much, and things must be designed better for this audience. Once again, the big thing would be the Triple Aim: lower costs, improve quality, and expand access. It’s the Holy Grail! Another big opportunity for health and technology is to empower people to take better care of themselves. Some digital health technologies are used over time to bolster health mindfulness, whether it’s to move more, eat better, or quit smoking. I also think that the convergence of the two should focus on integrating social networks because health is inherently social.

Finally, fast forward to CES in 2020. What technological advances do you hope to see on display?

In 2020, I hope CES and the Digital Health Summit will see my personal “observations of daily living” integrated into my full electronic health records with feedback. I also hope by 2020 that everyone in the United States will be insured and have access to primary care everywhere. Finally, by 2020, I would love to see people taking better care of themselves and virtuous cycle of social health. A girl can dream!

It’s not really about technology when it comes to 2020 for digital health , I think it’s more about the incentives that motivate people to health. Having said that, I think connected home health will be key to health in 2020 – which we’ve started to see at CES this year. Also, by 2020, mobile health won’t be a sub-section of the industry anymore; it will be the norm for health care and self-care.