As we look at how we can improve the value and quality of care, patients and their doctors will be relying on comparative effectiveness research to determine the best device, drug or therapy for individual patients and their health needs.
You've been on the frontlines of the most significant policy debates to shape the industry. What stands out as defining moments in the evolution of healthcare in America?
The Affordable Care Act was a milestone, providing an access to coverage for millions of people who previously had been out of the insurance marketplace.
The implementation of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D were also groundbreaking. These programs expanded private sector options for Medicare beneficiaries and provided the framework for successful public-private partnerships. Today, millions of seniors rely on these programs, and the research speaks for itself -- Medicare Advantage and Part D have made it possible for seniors to get the care and treatment they need to improve their health.
Healthcare is a major factor in your life—professionally, but also personally as a patient and a consumer. What are the intersections between the personal and professional?
As you work on a healthcare policy, you always have to think about how people are making healthcare decisions and the stakes for them. These decisions are personal—made at the kitchen table, often at a time when people are concerned, frustrated, scared and in need of help. It's critical to keep that in mind.
What excites you most about the job you do?
When I wake up, I think how lucky I am to be in this role. I love the intellectual challenge of the breadth and depth of issues. Having the ability to reach out to the best people in the country who are on the front lines of healthcare operations, improves one’s understanding of potential policy solutions.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to give voice to innovations that are happening in our industry.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I am lucky enough to have had a wonderful mentor in former Secretary of Labor John Dunlop. Early in my career, he taught me that learning to listen is a critical skill and that the best negotiators are the best listeners. He also advised learning to walk in other people’s shoes. If you make an argument, you must anticipate how the person on the other side of the table will hear it. Not only does it make you consider all perspectives and sides, but it's a reminder to come to the table and be prepared to listen and engage in a productive way.
Who are your personal heroes and what influence have they had on you?
Definitely my mom and dad.
My dad held three jobs—firefighter, grocery clerk and housepainter. Just by watching how he struggled to support our family, I learned firsthand about having a strong work ethic. I am so grateful for that.
My mom was physically disabled by polio, and lived a lifetime in physical pain. Her ability to cope in such an elegant and gracious way—while raising two children—was remarkable.
My challenges don’t come close to my parents’. Yet understanding what they went through has given me a compass for my own life. I have been very lucky, and I attribute so much of that to my parents and to the strong values and foundation they gave me.
To learn more about some of the key innovations that Karen discussed, read:
Five Technology Trends are Fueling Digital Disruption in Healthcare—Infographic