Senior Policy Advisor, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Health Policy Analyst, PBS NewsHour and Former
Editor-in-Chief, Health Affairs
Susan Dentzer is Senior Policy Adviser to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy focused solely on US health and health care, and is also one of the nation’s most respected health care journalists and thought leaders.
Health Policy Expert
A compelling, thoughtful, and entertaining speaker widely recognized for her ability to communicate clearly with both expert audiences and the general public, she is an on-air analyst on health issues with the PBS NewsHour and a regular commentator on health policy for National Public Radio and other television and radio networks. She speaks widely and also is known as a gifted interviewer and moderator, and is at home in a variety of settings, including corporate and academic audiences.
Reinventing American Healthcare
Dentzer wrote and hosted the 2015 PBS documentary, Reinventing American Healthcare, focusing on the innovations pioneered by the Geisinger Health System and spread to health systems across the nation.
Dentzer served from 2008-2013 as the editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, the nation’s leading journal of health policy. She also previously led the NewsHour’s health unit, reporting extensively on-air about health care reform debates from 1998 to 2008. Dentzer is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (formerly the Institute of Medicine) and also serves on the academy’s Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice. She is also an elected member of the Council on Foreign Relations; a fellow of the National Academy of Social Insurance; and a fellow of the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research institute. She graduated from Dartmouth, is a trustee emerita of the college, and chaired the Dartmouth Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2004. She has served as a member of the Board of Overseers of Dartmouth Medical School for more than two decades.
Dentzer is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Rescue Committee, a leading humanitarian organization. She also serves on the board of directors of Research!America, an alliance working to make research to improve health a higher priority; is a public member of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Medical Specialties, which assists 24 medical specialty boards in the ongoing evaluation and certification of physicians; and is a member of the board of directors of the Public Health Institute, the nonprofit organization addressing public health issues and solutions nationwide. She is a member of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the RAND Health Board of Advisors, and the March of Dimes national advisory board.
Dentzer holds an honorary master’s degree from Dartmouth and an honorary doctorate in human letters from Muskingum University. She, her husband, and their three children live in the Washington, DC area.
Health Equity Opportunities and Challenges for Health System Leaders
of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and their repercussions, as well as the many racial and ethnic disparities highlighted anew by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both senior management and boards of directors of health care systems across the country have undertaken new efforts, or redoubled existing ones, to address equity: first in the context of provision of care and the fundamental operations of health systems, and second, in addressing the broad upstream drivers of social and economic inequity that are largely extrinsic to health care. Actions are being taken by health systems in five main categories: speaking out publicly against inequity; taking larger steps internally to address diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), combat racism, and advance empowerment; widening their traditional equity lens to encompass widespread discrimination against multiple population groups; ramping up efforts to address the safety and quality of care and reducing undesirable variation as a means to reducing inequity and disparities; and using their resources to address upstream health drivers, including in priority areas of the social and economic determinants of health. Dentzer describes how a growing number of U.S. health systems now recognize and accept that they must play a dominant role in a process of social and economic transformation to eliminate racism and other forms of discrimination and place the nation on the road to better health.
Where We Are in the Journey to Value-Based Health Care
Moving away from a health care system predominantly based on fee-for-service payment, and toward one in which physicians and other health care providers are accountable for both costs and quality, is increasingly urgent. Drawing on the experiences of members of America’s Physician Groups and other organizations committed to the move to value, Ms. Dentzer can provide multiple examples of care that is of vastly better quality and is more affordable to patients as well as the nation. She also outlines policies that will support this movement at the national level.
Assessing Medicare For All and Related Reforms
With the 2022 midterm elections already around the corner, Democratic candidates are proposing a range of health reforms aimed at providing universal health insurance coverage. Some would build on and extend the reforms enacted in the American Rescue Plan in 2021 in the Affordable Care Act; others would go further to create Medicare for All, or a some other single-payer system that would abolish private health insurance. There are also a variety of competing reforms in between. In her presentation, Dentzer can describe the origins of “Medicare for All” in longstanding calls for national health insurance; delineate the specific “Medicare for All” and related proposals; discuss the implications for hospitals, health systems, insurers, and individuals; and weigh the political prospects of all of these reforms. She can also provide an update on Republican initiatives in support of expanding coverage that could continue to affect political and health reform landscapes.
Health Care Without Walls: A Roadmap for Reinventing U.S. Health Care
The presentation is based on the book of same name published on Amazon.com. Dentzer was the editor and lead author of the book, which among other features, prefigured the explosion of virtual health care during the pandemic. Imagine a health care system that came to you -- a system that met you, as an individual, where you are, in your home, workplace, or community, in part through such ‘virtual care’ modalities as telehealth. Such a system would anticipate your needs and work to keep you as healthy as possible, and view any of your needs to access “sick care” as a possible sign that the system had let you down. This system would address the upstream drivers of your health status, and yet be as convenient and accessible as other elements of your life that you now take for granted, like ordering online. Such a system could be called ‘Health Care Without Walls.’ Susan Dentzer can describe current trends and examples moving us toward the vision of Health Care Without Walls, and the public policy changes and private sector measures also necessary to achieve it. Although there will be many benefits in achieving a far more distributed system of care outside of conventional institutional settings, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, and nursing homes, a number of payment/reimbursement, regulatory, work force, and human factors issues must be addressed before such a system can be realized. Dentzer can describe the need for a “21st Century Hill Burton” program to assist many of the nation’s hospitals in transforming into new roles. Detzner can discuss the many implications for the nation’s health care work force; education and training of health care professionals; and in particular, interprofessional education and training to deliver the team-based, virtually enabled care that will increasingly be the norm. She can offer examples of organizations that are engaging in such efforts and describe the opportunities that may emerge for research and other partnerships to advance the field.
Champions of Health Equity
How key health system leaders are responding to demands for greater equity within their organizations and across their communities.
Health Care Without Walls: Implications for Cancer Care
Dentzer has a version of the Health Care Without Walls presentation specifically geared to the oncology community and the needs of cancer patients. She draws on her recent experience in helping to create a Cancer Hospital Home program at Yale-New Haven Health system.
All Susan Dentzer Books
Health Care Without Walls: A Roadmap for Reinventing U.S. Health CarePurchase Book
“Your insightful and thoughtful remarks and your candor responding to questions brought precisely the type of focus we hoped would transpire during the Conference morning session. The attendee evaluations of the Conference were uniform in their praise of your good work and that of fellow Panel members. Our constituents in the business community simply cannot ignore the imperative of health care reform communicated by your clear-headed thinking and the understated, yet forceful manner in which you chose to convey that message. You are a most gracious and kind person. I wish you best of luck going forward and I will keep Health Affairs on my short list of 'must read' policy journals."
- | Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
"Susan was wonderful, and please convey our sincere appreciation to her. We have received very favorably comments on her session!"
- | Federation of State Medical Boards
"Ms. Dentzer'sspeech went very fine and the audience was very positive. From the first feedback, everybody found the speech extremely interesting. Some people also asked us how to invite Ms. Dentzer for some of their own conference!"
- | Quebec International
"Susan was terrific! Excellent presentation - it was obvious from the question and answer session that the audience was very engaged. She was also very gracious to stay and interact with participants at the reception that followed her presentation."
- | University of Alabama-Birmingham