Loneliness and its Impact on Health: Share Your Story

Robin Strongin

A friend of mine reached out not to long ago and asked if we could meet for coffee.  She had something she wanted to talk to me about and I was intrigued.

It had been some time since we had seen each other so we spent a bit of time catching up on friends and family.  Of course most of that time was focused on our kids–how proud we are of them, how fortunate we are to have great relationships with them, and how quiet it is at home now that they are out of the house.

As we made our way from coffee to food (hers was the healthy meal choice, mine, not so much) she shared that she had been thinking about, and doing some research on, loneliness–and it’s affect on health.  Especially for women.

We discussed the many dimensions of loneliness–living in isolation (geographically speaking and feeling isolated in a crowded urban environment); empty-nest syndrome; aging and the loss of friends; relationships gone bad.

All of this at a time when, ironically, more and more of us are more and more connected through technology.  Or are we?

We started to talk about how prevalent loneliness is, especially for women–and the remarkable impact it has on health–emotional and physical health.

Ever the analyst, my friend came bearing statistics and articles with headlines that screamed: Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness, How Loneliness Wears on the Body, The Dangers of Loneliness, and Loneliness Has the Same Risk as Smoking for Heart Disease.

She wondered if there was something Disruptive Women could do.

We will be exploring this issue in greater depth over the next few months.  In the meantime, if you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section.  If you have data, research, personal stories (please be sure all permissions to share are in accordance with any and all legal and regulatory requirements), we would love to hear from you.


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See You at HIMSS 2017

Robin Strongin

DW-HIMSS-Banner-2017-TWITTERHope to see you on Tuesday where we will be discussing NAVIGATING UNCERTAINTY: Disruptive Women Style.



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Gaming the System

This post was originally published by  The Health Care Blog  on February 11. 

As physicians ready themselves for the future of medicine under onerous MACRA regulations, it seems appropriate to glance into the future and visualize the medical utopia anticipated by so many.  Value-based care, determined by statistical analysis, is going to replace fee for service.

Six months ago, I received my first set of statistics from a state Medicaid plan and was told my ER utilization numbers were on the higher end compared to most practices in the region.  This was perplexing as my patients tend to avoid ER visits at all costs and can be found milling about in my parking lot at 7am on Mondays with their sick children waiting for my office to open.

I requested more detailed reports on ER utilization and was given a 20 page list with codes that needed to be hand matched to patient names.  Being a committed and diligent physician, I spent a random Saturday evening matching up 420 names to individual 15-digit codes after putting my children to bed.  Of my top 20 utilizers, only 8 were actually patients.  The remaining 12 had been “on my panel list” during the reporting period but had never set foot in my office.  Of the top 100 utilizers, only 42 were patients.  In the interest of accuracy, I requested they re-run the numbers using my patients only.  Mr. IT informed me the inaccurate panel would make no difference.  He might have failed statistics in college but who is keeping track. (more…)

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Heart Month: Disruptive Woman Dr. Bernadette Melnyk Shares Her Story

Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FNAP, FAAN

This post was originally published by the Women’s Heart Alliance on February 10.

When people ask how I became interested in health and wellness, I have to tell them about the tragedy that forever changed my life.

My mom had a stroke right in front of me and died when I was home alone with her at age 15. She had a history of headaches and saw her family physician one week before she died. My mom was diagnosed with high blood pressure and given a prescription for a high blood pressure medication that my dad found in her purse after she died. As you can imagine, this traumatic event had a major impact and left me suffering from post-traumatic stress for a couple of years.

Quote Graphics on Bern Blog Post_ fb_igIt’s hard knowing that my mother’s death might have been prevented. She might have lived if she had known more about how high blood pressure was a major risk factor for stroke and got her prescription filled. I do not want other children to experience the loss of their moms early due to heart disease, which is in large part preventable with healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Heart disease and stroke now takes the life of one woman nearly every 80 seconds. That’s more than 400,000 women each year, who are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and friends. Even though this silent killer contributes to more female deaths in America each year than all cancers combined, many people still think of heart disease as a “man’s disease.” That thinking can affect how quickly a woman, her family, or even her doctor takes her signs and symptoms seriously or diagnoses them correctly, and time is vital in treating heart attack, stroke, and other complications related to heart disease. Also, women’s symptoms can present differently than men’s, and not all health care providers are up to date with the latest evidence-based practice to know how to recognize symptoms of heart disease in women.

I urge everyone, especially health care providers, to be proactive in learning about how heart disease affects women and men differently, and ways to prevent it.


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Health Care Worries Top Terrorism, By Far, In Americans’ Minds

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

This article was originally published in www.healthpopuli.com on February 8, 2017.


Health care is the top concern of American families, according to a Monmouth University Poll conducted in the week prior to Donald Trump’s Presidential inauguration.

Among U.S. consumers’ top ten worries, eight in ten directly point to financial concerns — with health care costs at the top of the worry-list for 25% of people. Health care financial worries led the second place concern, job security and unemployment, by a large margin (11 percentage points) In third place was “everyday bills,” the top concern for 12% of U.S. adults.

Immigration was the top worry for only 3% of U.S. adults; terrorism and national security represented 2% of the American public’s concerns.

In the 2015 Monmouth Poll, 15% said health care was their family’s main worry. Today, this issue is #1 for families across income categories and party affiliation. (more…)

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Super Bowl 2017

Founder and CEO SageMy™Life.

Founder and CEO SageMy™Life.

Regardless of whether your team won, you’ve no doubt been delighted, entertained and inspired by the commercials that aired last night. There are too many I liked to pick a favorite, but in the spirit of this blogspace, I yield my time and give my vote to Audi.

It’s a beautiful statement, to which I’ll add this. May he never have to explain to her:

  • Why she must pay more for access to health care than the men around her;
  • Why she – and not her male relatives or work colleagues – will need to leave the workforce to be an unpaid family caregiver, suffering a loss of income and retirement benefits; and
  • Why she may suffer unnecessarily because a women’s health didn’t get the attention it deserved.

Perhaps there are things you’d add to this list.


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Hostels for Hope: Easing the Burden for Women with Cancer

This article was originally published on www.impatientoptimists.org on February 2, 2017.

Sarah* is a 46-year-old mother of five and a cervical cancer survivor living in Tanzania. Survival wasn’t easy. She had to travel over 300 miles from her village to one of only two treatment facilities in the entire country; once she got there, she had no place to stay. Like Sarah, many of the over 10,000 Tanzanian women diagnosed with cervical or breast cancer each year face two major challenges – how to pay for transportation to the capital, Dar es Salaam, and where to stay for the duration of their treatment. For some women, the challenge is too great and they have no choice but to stay home and die. Others, like Sarah, make the difficult trip to the hospital, and struggle to survive through the treatment. Many sleep on the hospital grounds, or on the street, while being treated.

We at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon believe that no woman should die of cervical or breast cancer, no matter where she lives. So we decided it was time for the women of Tanzania to have “homes away from home” near the country’s only two cancer treatment centers that could save their lives. We partnered with the American Cancer Society the Bush Institute HKS, Inc ., Southern Methodist University , and T-MARC Tanzania to sponsor the Hostels for Hope competition.

downloadWe challenged professional and student architects around the world to use fresh thinking, sustainable materials, and resourceful ingenuity to design safe, comfortable lodgings for women undergoing cancer treatments. And they responded! We received nearly 100 designs, and an esteemed jury chose six winners who will be announced on World Cancer Day , February 4, in Tanzania. The top two designs will be adapted according to the needs of the hospitals, and our hope is that they will be built in the coming year. (more…)

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Top 5 Misconceptions and Questions about Public Health Tech

1. What is public health tech anyway?

lab-316553_960_720Public Health Tech, is any tech product or tech-enabled service that prevents the onset of disease or addresses the needs of medically vulnerable populations. This is an emerging niche of Digital Health growing due to the collision of digital health and public health. This collision has been catalyzed by two expanding pressures:

  1. Digital health failures: After a five year boom, 2016 was not a kind year to digital health. According to Rock Health, digital health VC funding made a slight dip to $4.2 billion after a record $4.5 billion in 2015. The overwhelming sense is that the party was over and the industry had entered the “trough of disillusionment.” A few of the factors that brought the over-exuberance down to earth were a renewed focus on evidentiary standards and a  reevaluation of the role of technology. Much of the boom was driven by sentiments that technology was the panacea even those most solutions were built around the fee-for-service model, that validation and claims would inevitably emerge with widescale adoption, and that the adoption of technology would inherently lead to reduced costs. None of these assumption have proven to be true.
  2. Public health spending crunch: Public Health spending had increased significantly from $39 per capita (inflation adjusted) to $275 per capita from 1960 to 2002, but a recent study has found that it has since been declining. Most of the increase in funding (approximately 80-90%) was a result of federal or local government spending. While the ACA in 2010 had originally committed $15 Billion in Public Health funding, it reduced that commitment by $6.25 Billion in 2012 and even further via sequestrations in 2013. Now with the new Trump administration, it is unclear how that funding will change, but if recent efforts to repeal the ACA are any indication, it is unlikely Public Health funding will see any relief in the near future and more likely will continue to experience significant cuts.

2. Public Health. Doesn’t that mean non-profits, government programs and impact investing?

Historically, Public Health has effected change through government agencies and community based organizations. However our healthcare system is changing at a rapid rate that makes it imperative to address needs in a scalable fashion. As fee-for-service begins to transition to value-based care, there will be renewed and growing interest and need on focusing on the biggest drivers of healthcare outcomes.

In 2016, my co-founder Marquesa Finch and I founded P2Health Ventures, the first venture fund investing in Public Health Tech companies. We invest in early-stage startups innovating solutions for population and/or preventative health. We also look for companies who are addressing health inequities, are committed to diversity within their teams and among the populations they serve, and who are implementing evidence-based product development.

As Public Health professionals, we know that access to care is a relatively minor driver. What’s most important is prevention. The United States spends only 3 percent of our health care dollars on preventing diseases (as opposed to treating them), when 75 percent of our health care costs are related to preventable conditions (APHA). This ratio largely holds true whether an individual is healthy or has an illness. Clinical care only drives 20% of our health outcomes. The rest comes from modifiable factors: health behaviors, physical environment and social and economic factors. These have historically been considered to be outside of healthcare from medicine’s perspective but this is the exact purview of Public Health. Adopting a public health lens to Digital Health and innovation opens up opportunities to effect significant and last change on the health of populations. (more…)

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17 Disruptive Women to Watch in 2017

DW Women to Watch 2017 - banner

Today, we are proud to launch our 17 Disruptive Women to Watch in 2017.  As is our custom and commitment to our thesis—Disruptive Women seeks to highlight women from a broad cross-section of disciplines, all of whom profoundly impact health and health care. This year we are doing something different. Given the enormity of the issues we are facing globally, when it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, we are focusing this year’s class of extraordinary women on those who are committed to ridding the world of this scourge. Lest you think this affects only the elderly (whatever that means), have a look at the sobering numbers and impact: start with our Brain Health series.

All of our 17 Disruptive Women to Watch in 2017 personify DW’s mission “to serve as a platform for provocative ideas, thoughts, and solutions in the health sphere.”

Disruptive Women in Health Care would like to take a moment to also salute our 16 Disruptive Women to Watch in 2016 and 15 Disruptive Women to Watch in 2015. (more…)

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Driving Progress in 2017

This article was originally published on January 26, 2017 in www.wewontwaitcampaign.org.


In the United States, a change of administration always brings uncertainty. With new leaders entering Congress and the White House, we at WA2 know we can turn that uncertainty into opportunity. Opportunity because we know finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and alleviating its burden on families can bring us together. WA2 is committed to continuing to lead a campaign to promote women’s brain health and fight against Alzheimer’s. 2017 is a critical year in our battle to stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks by 2020.

We are confident in the progress we will make because we know that our passionate partners and advocates can change individual lives and communities, intensify medical and private-sector responses, and shape the national policy landscape. Alzheimer’s is one of the few issues that cuts across party lines, affecting women and caregivers of all ages, races, creeds, and political beliefs. This widespread impact creates a shared basis for sustained action by women leaders across America, from caregivers and community advocates to legislators and executive leaders. This is the central strength of our movement.

To guide WA2 and our supporters, we would like to highlight the pillars of a concerted, nationwide effort to combat Alzheimer’s in the year ahead. This is an overall summary – we will explore each of these in greater depth throughout the year. If we dedicate ourselves to achieving these goals, and encourage others to join us, then 2017 will be a time of advocacy, awareness, and progress towards our goal of ending Alzheimer’s by 2020. (more…)

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Health Care For All — Only Better, US Consumers Tell Consumer Reports

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

This article was originally published on January 23, 2017, in http://www.healthpopuli.com/.

Availability of quality healthcare, followed by affordable care, are the top two issues concerning U.S. consumers surveyed just prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th U.S. President. Welcome to Consumer Reports profile of Consumer Voices, As Trump Takes Office, What’s Top of Consumers’ Minds?

“Healthcare for All, Only Better,” Consumer Reports summarizes as the top-line finding of the research. 64% of people are confident of having access to good healthcare, but 55% aren’t sure they can afford healthcare insurance to be able to access those services. Costs are too high, and choices in local markets can be spotty or non-existent. The high cost of prescription drugs is part of consumers health cost confidence-gap (with Consumer Reports calling out the EpiPen pricing controversy growing in 2016).

After healthcare, U.S. consumers in Post-Trump America are most worried about:

  • Affordable education
  • Food safety and quality
  • The costs of living for energy, food, taxes, and housing, and
  • Personal data security and privacy. (more…)

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There Will Never Be a New World Order Until Women Are a Part of It

This article was was originally posted on January 22, 2017, in Venture Valkyrie.

“There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it.”

Alice Paul

It has been, not just for me but for many, national women’s month. Maybe it’s not officially proclaimed as such, but it has just worked out that way.

It started for me the second week of January at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. What has been notable about this conference in past years is the absence of women. I even wrote about this in 2011 in a post called, “Alas, No Line for the Ladies Room,” in which I lamented the stunning absence of my sisters at what is arguably the most important healthcare business conference in the world. I recall noting that, back in 2011, attending JP Morganpalooza was like speed-dating but without the women in the equation, making it considerably less fun.

Suboptimal speed dating

There was a notorious event, hosted by LifeSci Advisors, at 2016’s JP Morgan conference which seems to have had the unintended consequence of waking the sleeping giantess. The firm hired a bunch of female models to entertain mostly male guests and blocked many women from attending. They were pilloried for it (I wrote about it HERE) and then massively apologized by pledging to get enlightened. Um, yeah.

But this year is apparently the year when the tide started to turn. I recall noting a sense of optimism last year, but this year, as I write this the day after the Women’s March that followed the 2016 election, I am hoping we are officially on an unstoppable pink train. Yes, it’s disturbing (to say the least) that the electorate has chosen people and policies that are decidedly anti-female. But this time, it provoked a disturbance in The Force that has roared back 2.5 million strong and growing. Can it be a coincidence that the biggest box office hits so in recent weeks are a) Rogue One, where a badass young woman leads the effort that results in the overthrow of the evil empire?  and b) Hidden Figures, a movie which honors the work of three young black female scientists, programmers and engineers at NASA without whom the space program may not have succeeded as it did.

As I watched the Women’s March from the sidewalk and from the TV screen yesterday, I couldn’t help but think that this women thing is for real and finally so. Even at JP Morgan, the tide seems to have turned. While in past years there was an event or two targeted to the dribble of women who attended the conference, this year there were at least 8 events that I personally heard of that were women-only and overflowing. Silicon Valley Bank, Deloitte, Canaan Partners, Wilson Sonsini, Women Business Leaders, Springboard, Square One Bank, GE Ventures and many others led events that were exclusively or primarily aimed at giving women a chance to celebrate their successes and network with each other. This is a massive upgrade over prior years and speaks to the number of women who showed up to do serious business at the conference this year. It was hard to miss the trend when in many other years it was hard to miss the oversight. A great thing. (more…)

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Navigating Uncertainty: Disruptive Women Style

A Disruptive Women Luncheon

Women spend much of their time learning to work around, work through and work directly on difficult challenges, be they work related, political (large and small p), accessing capital, work/life balance (whatever that means). The one constant we know is uncertainty. 2017 is unfolding to be a year of enormous uncertainty in every dimension of the word. Who better to share tips on navigating through waves of uncertainty than women who know how to throw on a life preserver (and matching shoes) and get stuff done. Join our global panel of experts for a spirited conversation. Lunch included.

February 21, 2017 — 12:30PM EST – 02:30PM EST

Orange County Convention Center - Room 414C

REGISTER NOW  Please register for the HIMSS Conference first then select Disruptive Women Luncheon from the Education tab as an optional event.  


Nicole Gardner

Halle Tecco

Ceci Connolly

Sarah Kerruish

Peggy Williams

Robin Strongin

Navigating Uncertainty

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Fighting the injustice of health disparities: Honoring the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Dr. John M. Eisenberg

Robin Strongin

For the past several years I have run this post and just as it was those years, it is this year a very important message.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.John EisenbergWe, as a nation, have made progress and I believe Dr. King would be proud. But our work is far from complete – particularly where health care is concerned. Another doctor, Dr. John M. Eisenberg, a physician of tremendous stature whose life was also tragically cut short (not by an assassin’s bullet but by brain cancer) was equally passionate about the dignity of life and justice for all Americans. Dr. Eisenberg, who among other things, served as the Director of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (as AHRQ was known back in the day), cared deeply about access to and the integrity of health care for all Americans – regardless of skin color.

Seventeen years ago, on January 14, 2000, Dr. Eisenberg gave what is, in my opinion, a brilliant speech to the employees of the Department of Health and Human Services. As with the past years I want to share his words with all of you today — as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. (more…)

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Digital Health, Destiny and Doritos

This post was originally published on January 8, 2017 on Venture Valkyrie.

It’s the first of the new year and of course that can mean only one thing:  the avalanche of stories about how much was or wasn’t invested in digital health and whether the current environment favors/disfavors growth in this sector and all that jazz.

It used to be, once upon a time, that the advent of the new year meant all things biotech as JP Morgan’s Healthcare Conference rolled into town, but no longer.  The “digital health” concept and all it sweeps in with it has become as popular as the biotech talk just like Kanye/Kim have swept JZ/Beyonce to the back of the ballroom.

Given this phenomenon, I have been asked multiple times in the last few weeks to give my predictions about digital health in 2017 and to weigh in on what will be hot, what should be hot and what we can expect, particularly in light of, you know, the change.

So I figured I’d collect my thoughts here and also the responses I have given to various inquiries on the digital health discourse.  This way, when I am working the crowd at JP Morgan this week I can just say “have you read my blog?” instead of “well, you know, it’s all about VR and blockchain now” (hat tip to Matthew Holt).  My thoughts in somewhat random order:

With the burgeoning convergence of all things digital with all things healthcare, the noise level at JPM, the Consumer Electronics Show (where I was last weekend) and a plethora of other geek-friendly events has reached record highs.  It’s tough to find the shiny needles in the repetitive haystack sometimes.  So I have to say I am most on the lookout for real success stories, and particularly those that demonstrate how the confluence of IT and pharma or IT and medtech have meaningfully improved clinical outcome and reduced cost while doing so.  I’d also like to hear some evidence of how all of this big data/AI/machine learning work is resulting in actual activity to change physician and consumer behavior, particularly around improved diagnoses and avoidance of medical errors.  So far most of the talk has been about technology and too little of the talk is about results.  I hereby declare that the digital health theme for 2017 should be: you show me the evidence it works, I’ll show you the money! (more…)

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