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“Disruption” is a well-used word these days in business and, in the past few years, in the health care business.

That’s because there’s a general consensus that the U.S. health care system is broken. “System” is a word that I shouldn’t use as my friend J.D. Kleinke smartly argued that it’s that lack of system-ness that makes using the phrase “health care system” an Oxymoron.

The fragmented health care environment creates innumerable pain points when accessing, receiving, and paying for services. And it’s women who feel so much of that pain.

imageIn that context, I’m gratified and humbled to be one of the first nominated Disruptive Women in Healthcare (DWs). The first two “classes” of DW’s were feted last night at the 2014 mHealth Summit, and it got me reflecting on the meaning of Robin Strongin‘s project.

People wear many hats in life, and most women have a plethora of them. One universal hat for women is that we are all daughters. We are often sisters, mothers, cooks, grocery shoppers, and most are workers outside of the home for pay and, therefore, taxpayers. Women are also the Chief Health Officers of their households.

The CHO role is a natural one, and one that many industry segments in health have recognized as a pivotal consumer for direct marketing. For example, for the past couple of decades, hospitals in the U.S. have strategically catered to women for maternity services because, theory goes, if you ‘get’ the woman to love you at that momentous moment-of-truth in health and life — childbirth — you have a hospital customer for life: for pediatrics, for OBGYN, for outpatient services, and for scheduling health care services with/for the men in her life.

Women are also Chief Household Officers, as they determine the bulk of household spending at retail. Increasingly, women, too, are taking on roles as Chief Financial Officers, gaining more competence and confidence in money concerns for their families, found in this Ameriprise survey. Within those financial management responsibilities, health care costs are eating up more of the household budget in the long list of basic necessities. And while more men are taking on tasks of caring for elder parents, the bulk of caregiving is still mostly done by women for aging parents and sick kids.

Once a woman receives a new diagnosis, she usually enters the labyrinthine, arcane and sometimes unsafe health care delivery system of hospitals, diagnostic labs and imaging centers, specialists and super-specialists. Once receiving services, the paperwork mounts: bills and receipts from each service paid-for, explanations of benefits, prescriptions and complicated medication regimens that a plastic pillbox labeled “S-M-T-W-Th-F-Sa” can’t possibly manage. Hair falls out. Breasts get lopped. Depression sets in. Skin discolors. Friends and family act strangely, not knowing what to say or how to say it.

But women haven’t taken this sitting down. They’re standing up, these DWs. Note the awesomeness of the 2014 Class of Disruptive Women in Healthcare. Alexandra Drane advocates for peoples’ health through her Unmentionables pulpit, exposing the truths about stress, money, sex and life as she parses through the data that make the case to “Mention” the things we don’t discuss with the health care system. Pam Cipriano, who currently heads up the American Nurses Association, works to transform the health care delivery system. Rebecca Coelius is a woman who codes, lives and breathes tech combined with social entrepreneurship. Nancy Green leads at Verizon, envisioning and building the platforms for transforming health care and enabling care, everywhere. Janie Gu is a woman in tech, currently working with Google, who’s innovating tools for public health (see her talking about her invention, OUTfluenza, which won a 2013 Surescripts Prize). Jen Hyatt founded the Big White Wall in the UK, now gone global, to de-stigmatize mental health and, IMHO, will help bring peace to the world. Kavita Patel, currently researching in Brookings Institution, is a practicing physician pushing to change clinical care for the better. Jeanne Pinder, an accomplished journalist, founded ClearHealthCosts to shine a bright light on health care costs and bring transparency to the people who need it most: the growing cadre health care consumers facing high deductibles and increasing out of pocket costs. Cathy Polley, a pharmacist, is committed to connecting the dots between food, health and lifestyle (a major commitment here on Health Populi and on HealthcareDIY). Lisa Shufro, based in Las Vegas, is a community collaborator with the Downtown Project and Zappos working to make change from the ground/neighborhood upward. Sunnie Southern founded Viable Synergy to drive innovation in the health industry, focused on health and wellbeing. Beth Toner is committed to communications in health care that are people/consumer centric, driving inspiration and health literacy through storytelling. Kenda West is a top woman in health IT, building technology-based tools to empower people (and especially caregivers) in health care. And I’m humbled to be included in this first Class of DWs. If you’re reading Health Populi, you probably know me, but if not, here’s the Q&A with me, or check out more on janesarasohnkahn.com.

And that’s just the roster for 2014. I’ll tell you about the 2015 DW class in the new year, and it includes some very good friends of mine. We all thank Robin Strongin, leader of Amplify Public Affairs, for calling us out and, more importantly, recognizing the role that so many women are already playing to make health care better.

Together, let’s all Disrupt health care for the better. We can and we must do it. And it will take all of us across all nodes of the health and health care ecosystem — food and tech, pharma and biotech, providers and plans, banks and schools, auto manufacturers and telecomms, moms and dads and kids and sisters and brothers — to ReMake Healthcare.

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