Meet the Collective: Sanjay Basu, Vice President of Research and Population Health

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Meet the Collective is our series highlighting the great people who make up Collective Health. Today, we’re sitting down with Dr. Sanjay Basu, our new Vice President of Research and Population Health.

Where are you from?

I was born in Washington, then moved to Texas, Arizona, and Illinois. My high school years were in Illinois and my parents still live there, so I consider myself a Midwesterner at heart.

What happened in your career that led you to Collective Health?

I heard about the positive impact of Collective Health a few years ago. As I watched the company from a distance, I grew increasingly impressed with how Collective brought together people who were humble but knowledgeable, experienced but able to question common assumptions, and effective but uncompromising in their pursuit of a better healthcare experience for patients.

My education has been in medicine and public health. In the past, I’ve worked with organizations to successfully deliver high-cost medicines to low-income patients, curtail epidemics of drug-resistant infections, and build a rural hospital and network of community healthcare workers. In many ways, though, fixing the U.S. healthcare system’s way of structuring and financing care is more daunting that those other challenges.

I’ve admired how Collective has improved the healthcare experience by aligning patient and employer incentives, focusing on reducing or eliminating the persistent perversities that plague my own patients — from having to find a fax machine to get authorization to prescribe a life-saving treatment; to seeing a patient in the emergency room after their refill for essential insulin was rejected; to having patients who avoided getting help for their illness until it was too late, because they were afraid of the bill. As I watched Collective Health systematically tackle these kinds of barriers to better healthcare, I realized I wanted to be part of the team.

What excites you most about where Collective Health is going?

I’m most excited that Collective Health is spearheading a genuine effort to engage in rigorous, objective, high-quality research to inform critical healthcare decisions. There have been a number of common assumptions in health benefits that were found to be misleading or false when subjected to rigorous research. For example, workplace wellness programs — often touted as cost saving — have started to be subjected to critical review, and we’re seeing a lot of null results.

I think it’s essential that we perform rigorous research to decipher rhetoric from reality and to find the most effective strategies to deliver high-value healthcare, particularly in this time where we face an avalanche of questionable claims about programs that claim to diagnose people more quickly, treat them more effectively, and simultaneously reduce healthcare costs. I have a healthy level of skepticism, and I think Collective Health’s leadership shares that and a self-critical attitude that will help us find meaningful long-term solutions to major healthcare dilemmas.

What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?

I think it’s critical to stay humble, especially when working in healthcare. Working on health problems has taught me that it’s never too late to be wrong and to hopefully learn from my mistakes.

What’s your favorite thing to do?

Play with my two boys. One is now six months old, and the other is going on five years.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and how does that inform what you do today?

I wanted to be a professional elephant keeper. I seriously hope that has no relationship to my current career!

What’s your favorite quote?

“Knowledge is like underwear. It is useful to have it, but not necessary to show it off.” — Bill Murray

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