Episode #108 – Fixing Healthcare for Everyone, with Vivian S. Lee MD

Friends & Colleagues, 

The focus of this episode is of immediate importance to all of us. It’s especially important right now, in the month before the inauguration of President-elect Biden & VP-elect Kamala Harris. (Of note, this interview was recorded in late August, so we were unaware of the election outcomes).

The topic is ‘fixing’ healthcare and our guest today is Dr. Vivian Lee, the President of Health Platforms at Verily.

Dr. Lee recently published a book entitled –The Long Fix – Solving America’s Healthcare Crisis with Strategies that work for Everyone – in which she explains the fundamental problems in healthcare and provides practical solutions. The book speaks directly to policy makers, providers, payers & patients. In this interview, we’ll hit the high points of the book and get a sense of the priority Dr. Lee assigns to certain problems.

The book is remarkable and so is Dr. Lee. She is a Harvard-Radcliffe College graduate who obtained a doctorate in medical engineering from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and then earned an M.D. with honors from Harvard Medical School. She has also earned an Executive MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Dr. Lee is a radiologist and medical researcher who has authored over 200 peer-reviewed journals. Prior to her current role, Dr. Lee was the Dean & CEO of the University of Utah Health – one of the nation’s leading hospital and academic medical centers. During her tenure, she and her colleagues achieved numerous nationally recognized accomplishments in quality, safety, patient experience, growth and entrepreneurial commercialization. In 2019 she was ranked #11 among the ‘Most Influential People in Healthcare’ by Modern Healthcare.  She has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

In this episode, Dr. Lee and I will touch on:

  1. A broad range of issues ranging from the mind boggling complexities of billing and payment, to the lack of price transparency, to the crippling and uncontrolled costs of medications, to the impact of healthcare costs on suppressing employee wages and retirement funds.
  2. The one issue Dr. Lee calls out as the core off-the-charts problem in the American healthcare system.
  3. Why Dr. Lee believes that it’s critically important for all citizens to understand how healthcare delivery works and what it would take to make it better.
  4. Why universal access to healthcare is not only the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, but also from a public health, productivity and economic point of view.
  5. Why Dr. Lee believes we must shift to value-based care in order for universal coverage/access to be optimally effective.

I have to say that it was a privilege and a pleasure to speak with Dr. Lee.  Given her remarkable accomplishments, her brilliance, and the enormity of her current position, I was struck by how down-to-earth and humble she is. We didn’t have the opportunity to directly discuss the issue of leadership in healthcare; but an unspoken message that came across is that we need a leadership culture that Dr. Lee embodies – data-driven, humanistic, socially aware, and selfless – leadership that is, first and foremost, for the people.  Dr. Lee wrote this book for the American public – to bring some clarity to our complicated, opaque healthcare system. I applaud her for that.  Most importantly, I applaud her for the explicit intention to deliver solutions that work for everyone.

Until Next Time, Be Well

Zeev Neuwirth, MD