A passion for providing healthcare to the most vulnerable
Sachin Jain grew up in a New Jersey family where serious discussions were on the dinner menu.
“A lot of the conversations we were having were about health equity – trying to make sure that people who didn’t have access to good healthcare actually had access to great healthcare,” said Dr. Jain, MD, MBA, FACP. “That left an impression on me that we all carry a certain obligation to serve others. Growing up, I was interested in medicine and healthcare, but I was also interested in creating broader scale change in society.”
In recognition of his efforts to create that kind of change, Partners in Care Foundation will honor Dr. Jain with its 2022 Champion for Health Award. This is only the fifth time that Partners in Care Foundation has presented a Champion for Health Award.
“Dr. Jain is being recognized for his outstanding achievements in building and scaling innovative programs that address the needs of the highest-risk, highest-need patients,” said June Simmons, President and CEO of Partners in Care Foundation.
As president and chief executive officer of SCAN Group and SCAN Health Plan, Dr. Jain is responsible for leading the organization’s growth, diversification, and efforts to reduce healthcare disparities.
“Our focus is on keeping older adults healthy and independent, said Dr. Jain. “We’ve launched a number of new initiatives, all with the mission of improving the care of people who need it most.”
Dr. Jain has spent most of his career focused on improving care for aging adults, including at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and CareMore, an organization focused on improving care for frail and vulnerable seniors. In 2020, he joined SCAN (Senior Care Action Network).
“Our focus is on keeping older adults healthy and independent, and the charge I’ve been given by our board is to expand the ways in which we do that, and also to expand the footprint of SCAN’s activities,” he said. “If you have a good thing, part of your obligation is to make it available to more people.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is our work around reducing social isolation and loneliness. I built the first clinical program focused on loneliness when I was at CareMore and have built on the learnings from that program to build new offerings here at SCAN.
“The worthiest people in our society are older adults, as well as frail, complex, and vulnerable patients. These are folks who oftentimes have a lot of difficulty getting great healthcare.
“My passion is trying to make sure people who deserve great healthcare have access to it.”
Before starting at SCAN in July 2020, Dr. Jain was president and CEO of CareMore Health and Aspire Health, innovative integrated healthcare delivery companies. He led growth, diversification, expansion and innovation of these companies and they grew to serve over 180,000 patients in 32 states with $1.6B in revenues. Under his leadership, CareMore built and scaled industry-leading programs to address loneliness, deliver hospital and primary care at home, and address the clinical needs of the highest-risk, highest-need patients.
Dr. Jain was previously chief medical information and innovation officer at Merck & Co. He also served as an attending physician at the Boston VA-Boston Medical Center and a member of faculties at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School. From 2009-2011, he worked in the Obama Administration, where he was senior advisor to Donald Berwick when he led the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Dr. Jain was the first deputy director for policy and programs at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI).
Dr. Jain has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, and Health Affairs, and was an editor of the book, “The Soul of a Doctor” (Algonquin Press). He is adjunct professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a contributor at Forbes. In addition, he serves on the board of directors at Make-A-Wish America.
Dr. Jain, who lives in Southern California, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College before earning his M.D. at Harvard Medical School and MBA at Harvard Business School.
His father, a physician, started the pain management service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Jain recalls that there was a family expectation that he, too, would become a doctor.
“I was a very curious young person and had a lot of different ideas about how my future would unfold,” he said. “I remember coming home from college my freshman year and saying to my parents, ‘Hey, I’m really interested in the law and potentially become a lawyer,’ and they said, ‘You should go to law school after you go to medical school.’
“They knew something about me that I didn’t necessarily know about myself at the time, which is how rewarding I would find it to be working at the interface of the healthcare system and trying to make healthcare better for people.
“I think when they think of me as a physician, they still imagine me having a clinic and taking care of patients full-time. I certainly still see patients as a physician at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles, but frankly far too infrequently.
“But I’ve been lucky to have a career in which I’ve been able to use leadership of organizations to try to innovate to serve people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to great healthcare. So it’s been very rewarding from that perspective.”
Dr. Jain said his extended family has had a long-time philanthropic commitment to serving underserved communities in rural Rajasthan, India, which is where they’re from. That ethic was part of his volunteer commitment during his undergraduate days when he was a volunteer at the student-founded and student-operated Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.
When he was a business student, Dr. Jain said, “I reached out to DaVita CEO Kent Thiry about my interest in bringing dialysis to people in rural Rajasthan. We worked together (through DaVita’s charitable foundation) and with members of my family in India to launch two dialysis centers to serve underserved people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to dialysis. I also worked with Medical Missions for Children to bring cleft lip and palate surgery to the region.”
“In the course of volunteering with people experiencing homelessness, what became super clear to me was that healthcare was intimately tied to the issue of homelessness,” he said. “Oftentimes healthcare problems, whether they’d be chronic disease, mental illness or addiction issues, were the cause of people becoming homeless. If people had underlying chronic conditions and were homeless for other reasons, being homeless exacerbated those conditions dramatically.
“In the course of engaging with guests at our shelter, I got to understand how mistreated people were by the traditional healthcare system and how important trust is in supporting people who are trying to access the healthcare system.”
He teamed up with a social worker from the Cambridge Health Alliance and a student at Harvard Medical School to solicit donations of equipment and supplies from the university’s health services department. They were able to provide healthcare to people within the shelter and perform screenings for people dealing with a variety of urgent care issues.
“A lot of the principles that I learned working in homeless healthcare are scalable to serve any frail and vulnerable population,” he said. “The importance of building trust, the importance of humility, the importance of focusing on the problem the patient has, as opposed to focusing on an agenda that you have as a clinician.
“That work set the stage for my medical education, but also set the stage for my career as someone leading healthcare organizations.”
Another transformative experience at Harvard College was meeting mentors who were both practicing physicians and change leaders in American society.
“Probably the best such role model for me was Don Berwick, who at the time was the father of the healthcare quality movement in the United States,” said Dr. Jain. “I was lucky to take an undergraduate course with him, and I was also lucky to be his intern at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
“Through his mentorship, I came in contact with a number of people who were simultaneously trying to improve patient care at their institutions for the people that they were directly serving, while also trying to advocate for and drive broader change in the healthcare system, through management as well as health policy.
“That became the template for my career: trying to think about how I might be able to work both at the micro and the macro levels. I’ve been fortunate to have a career in which I’ve been able to work in clinical medicine, and I’ve been able to work in organizational leadership. I’ve also been able to work at the policy and regulatory level.
“It’s been fascinating to be able to see healthcare from all those different angles and recognize that changing this multi-trillion-dollar industry is going to require a combination of approaches, not anyone’s silver bullet.”
While he eventually made his parents’ dream come true by graduating from Harvard Medical School, he took a leave after his third year to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. After his first year of business studies, he received a call from Michael Porter, a prominent business school professor who had developed Porter’s Five Forces Analysis and is now known for his work in healthcare.
“He said, ‘I’m just getting into healthcare, and I’ve heard about you and I’d love to see if you wanted to work on some projects together.’ I spent several years researching and writing with Michael and had a tremendous formative experience to view some of the problems in our healthcare system, through the lens of business academia and strategy and operations.
“That gave me a different view to how to diagnose some of the challenges that we have and how to approach solving those problems.”
Every medical student and physician should know more about how the healthcare system operates, according to Dr. Jain.
“You need to know how the system operates in order to effectively work within it, as well as to drive change within it,” he said. “Our system is complicated and far too many clinicians get frustrated because they don’t necessarily understand how all the pieces fit together.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to know more about the system, but it’s incumbent upon all of us to simplify it so that knowing a healthcare system doesn’t require a PhD in health policy from Harvard. That said, we want clinicians who are focused on learning their craft and being expert in the delivery of healthcare and understanding disease and treatment.”
Part Two– Leadership in action
Learning to lead and inspiring the next generation
Dr. Sachin Jain, president and chief executive officer of SCAN Group and SCAN Health Plan, will be presented with the Champion for Health Award at Partners in Care’s 22nd Annual Tribute Dinner on June 20, 2022.
“Awards like this are oftentimes given in the name of an individual, but I think this is really the reflection of a body of work that has been completed with the help and support and partnership of countless other people,” said Dr. Jain, MD, MBA, FACP.
“This is recognition for of all the colleagues and mentors who’ve supported me and worked alongside me over the course of more than a decade trying to change healthcare. I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues every step of the way.”
Dr. Jain said he had “an embarrassment of riches” in terms of people who helped shape his thinking and his leadership skills.
“One of my earliest mentors was Professor Deborah Stone, who has written extensively about the notion that you have to get the problem definition right before you can actually effectively solve a problem,” he said. Among other notable teachers were sociology professors Chris Winship and William Julius Wilson; Robert Putnam, a political scientist who focused on the concept of community and social isolation; and Joel Katz, his residency program director at the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital.
“They were tremendously influential and supportive of me, from a career development perspective, as well as shaping my thinking,” he said.
Sam Nussbaum, who was chief medical officer at Anthem, gave Dr. Jain one of his first significant internship opportunities in healthcare.
“And then I had some amazing bosses and mentors subsequently, people like Mike Rosenblatt, who was chief medical officer at Merck; Leeba Lessin, who was my predecessor CEO at CareMore; Shelly Zinberg, the founder of CareMore; and Pete Haytaian at Anthem.
“Now I’m lucky to have a very supportive board chair, Linda Rosenstock, who’s partnering with me in getting SCAN to a higher level of impact and influence in the healthcare industry.”
In trying to lead and inspire his employees and colleagues, Dr. Jain said that he is often reminded that all leaders are imperfect.
“We’re all trying to have the right balance of setting high expectations and supporting people,” he said. “One of the most important qualities I try to bring to being a leader is empathy, and recognizing that everyone is trying to do a good job. People need different kinds of support, depending on who they are and where they are in their career, to do their best work.
“I’m always trying to get under the hood and understand what’s important to the people I work with, and ensure that, as we’re thinking about the organization’s progress, we’re also thinking about the individual’s progress. We talk a lot about organizational culture, but organizations are nothing except a collection of people. Their most fundamental level is the individual who’s trying to make a contribution or make a difference.
“Our job as leaders is to create environments where people want to give their all and maximize their impact. That’s my orientation.”
As president and CEO of SCAN (Senior Care Action Network), Dr. Jain leads an innovative non-profit healthcare organization whose mission is to keep seniors healthy and independent. A team of 1,200 associates provides healthcare services for 220,000 Medicare Advantage and Dual Eligible members.
“The space that we work in, serving older adults and trying to keep them healthy and independent, is a space where there is just so much opportunity to do so much good,” he said. “Getting to a place where we are actively prioritizing among the opportunities is probably the most significant challenge that we face.”
Dr. Jain started at SCAN during the first year of an unprecedented pandemic.
“Organizational leadership is hard under any circumstance,” he said. “Organizational leadership during a pandemic where folks are getting comfortable working remotely, dealing with a lot of personal and professional struggles, created extra challenges.
“I would say we actually suffered from twin pandemics. One was the pandemic created by the COVID-19 virus, but there’s the other pandemic of racism and racial inequality that was magnified through the events leading to the death of George Floyd.
“And so, the organizational leadership challenge has been, number one, to improve our focus on coming together as a company, even as we’re all working remotely, while we’re launching these strategies. Second is to take the steps necessary to ensure that we are a fair and equitable workplace that operates fairly and equitably for all the people in the communities that we serve.”
There may be a silver lining to the COVID cloud, he said.
“It’s taken far longer than I think many of us would’ve expected for the digitization of care to arrive,” he said. “Much of what’s being heralded as new today was available 20 years ago, but we’re finally starting to see uptake. Some of that was accelerated by COVID-19.
“Having worked across almost every single sector of the healthcare system, government, clinical care delivery, pharma, managed care, I’ve also just seen the shame-and-blame game ramp up, where every sector is blaming the other for why healthcare is expensive and ineffective in our country. I frankly thought we would make more progress than we have in the last two decades. It’s been very humbling, to be honest, to see how long it takes to create change. I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted that we would need a global pandemic to drive the adoption of digital healthcare, but here we are.”
No longer how long it takes, Dr. Jain is grateful for meaningful improvements in healthcare coverage.
“Clearly the Affordable Care Act has made coverage available to tens of millions of individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have access to coverage,” he said. “Most people’s views of what’s wrong with U.S. healthcare is some version of ‘I like my healthcare, but we need to somehow solve the problem for everyone else.’
“Oftentimes it’s too late before people realize that they don’t truly like their healthcare. Once you’re a consumer of healthcare in a significant way, you’re ill-equipped to actually advocate for the system to improve or be better. And so most of us who, once we encounter the system, realize that it has to be better, but we’re not necessarily in a position to actually make it better.
“The thing that’s been most surprising about how we’ve changed our healthcare system is how idiosyncratic it has been. Had Ted Kennedy not passed away when he did, we would’ve had a very different Affordable Care Act. Very small events lead to huge change in outcomes. That’s incredibly humbling when you’re somebody who wants to really try to change healthcare.”
The biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry, he said, are quality, cost, access, and disparities.
“We have significant quality problems, high degrees in variation,” he said. “Where you live and the concentration of nearby clinicians and hospitals changes the kind of care that you get. We need a greater tie between the science and medicine and what’s actually delivered to patients in real-world practice. From an access perspective, the affordable care act was incredible in terms of adding people into the healthcare system, but it’s still not fully affordable. We’ve moved away from full coverage in this country to a lot of co-insurance, thinking that it would drive better, quote unquote, consumer behavior around accessing healthcare. The reality is that having a policy with a high deductible is often a strong disincentive for people to access the kind of care that they need, particularly people on lower ends of income scales. That’s a huge issue.
“And then, finally, disparities. Who you are from a racial or ethnic perspective ends up influencing your healthcare outcomes far more than I think any of us expects. We have to make sure that we’re driving greater health equity in the healthcare system.”
Before starting at SCAN, Dr, Jain was president and CEO of CareMore Health and Aspire Health; chief medical information & innovation officer at Merck & Co.; an attending physician at the Boston VA-Boston Medical Center and a member of faculties at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School; and deputy director for policy and programs at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI).
Dr. Jain is a respected thought leader in health care delivery. He has regularly been recognized as a “Top 50 Most Influential Clinical Leader” and “100 Most Influential People in US Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare. Dr. Jain has also been recognized by the Boston VA Medical Center for excellence in clinical care provided to the veteran’s community with the “Golden Heart Award,” and by Brigham and Women’s Hospital for excellence in mentorship. In 2018, LinkedIn named him its top voice (#1) for healthcare.
Dr. Jain is an adjunct professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and sees patients at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles.
“It’s so important to have that frontline perspective on how people are experiencing the healthcare system,” he said. “When I was at CareMore, I saw very clearly how easy it was to sit on the seventh floor of your office building and declare something, and then I saw, when I was practicing in our clinics, how differently some of what we thought was a good idea in the boardroom translated on the front lines of care delivery.
“That’s why it’s so important to stay close to patients and stay close to the front lines. It helps me be a better leader and helps me think more critically about the problems that we need to be solving. Those are some of the reasons I continue to practice medicine, in addition to just liking it and enjoying it.”
Dr. Jain has been on the board of the Make-A-Wish Foundation board since 2018.
“One of the things that we have in such short supply, in our country more generally, but specifically in the lives of people experiencing illness, is hope,” he said. “The Make-A-Wish Foundation is an opportunity for me, in a small way, to help give children experiencing serious illness access to more hope in the form of wishes that are granted for them. That is very meaningful.”
To learn more about Partners’ Annual Tribute Dinner, register to attend the event, or sign up as a sponsor, please visit Partners’ 2022 Annual Tribute Dinner.
Partners in Care Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Fernando. Its mission is to align social care and health care to address the social determinants of health and equity disparities affecting diverse, under-served and vulnerable populations.