About Susannah Fox

Susannah Fox leads the health research at the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project in Washington, DC.

“We just flipped a switch.”


“At one level, we just flipped a switch. It wasn’t a complicated, multi-faceted, variegated intervention. All we did was open up the doctor’s notes… Out of that came a cascade.”

- Tom Delbanco talking about OpenNotes and how a seemingly simple change — allowing patients to view clinicians’ notes from their visits — is having a profound effect on health care. (This quote is around minute 13.)

Check out the rest of the line-up for the latest RWJF Pioneering Ideas Podcast and listen to it here:

Where do you see opportunities for simple changes in the way we pursue health? Feel free to comment here, on the RWJF podcast page, or tweet @LoriMelichar, who produces the show.

What if we stopped panicking and started solving the problem?


“What if, in the midst of a crisis in which workflows, policies, procedures, and operations must be altered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could distribute an app to emergency departments as easily as a software developer submits an app to the Apple App Store?”

Kenneth D. Mandl, MD, MPH, talking so much sense about the Ebola crisis that it gives me hope for the future.

Get yourself some: “Ebola in the United States: EHRs as a Public Health Tool at the Point of Care” (JAMA, Oct. 20, 2014)

We are at the beginning of a revolution…

I see parallels between the current state of health data tracking and the trajectory of adoption we saw in the early days of internet, broadband, and mobile adoption.

Here’s a clip I just found from an interview with WHYY’s Dan Gottlieb in which I explain what I mean by that:

I loved being part of the conversation with Dan, Ernesto Ramirez, and Heather Patterson. Here’s the full interview: Self-Tracking: Quantified Self Movement.

If you want to dig in further, here’s the Pew Research Center report I refer to, Tracking for Health, and more essays, speeches, and deep thoughts about the past, present, and future of health data tracking.

Let’s fix the culture of stress

The Unmentionables panel at Health 2.0 addressed issues we don’t talk about in public but which deeply affect our health and well-being. I posted the first set of videos last week — here is the second batch.

Michael Painter, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, talked about his personal perspective on stress and building a culture of health:

“You cannot get stronger without stress…but the more you stress your body, the more you have to pay attention to rest and recovery. Or you will burn out, get injured, or get sick. It’s time to fix the culture of stress.” – Mike Painter

Mike also wrote about the connection between stress and health on the RWJF blog. Continue reading

“We must redefine health to include life.” – Alexandra Drane

The first videos from the Unmentionables panel at Health 2.0 are up:

Note that this video contains both the opening and closing segments — tons of wonderful research and insight courtesy of Alexandra Drane. Look out for our two surprise guests who share some fascinating data and very quotable quotes:

“In health care we move in ‘study step.’ We don’t take a step without a study.” – Jonathan Bush

“Fear is not compatible with creativity. Doubt cannot give birth to innovation.” – Fred Trotter

Continue reading

I’m RWJF’s Newest Entrepreneur in Residence

This post originally appeared on RWJF’s Culture of Health blog:

The Entrepreneur is inI am thrilled to begin my job as the entrepreneur in residence (EIR) at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

You might think that the EIR role is traditionally associated with venture capital firms, not foundations. But scratch the surface and you’ll find commonalities between the two industries. Both VCs and philanthropists have daring ambitions, place lots of bets, and hope for a big pay-off every once in a while. The difference is that a philanthropy like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation places a priority on societal dividends, such as greater access to health care or a reduction in childhood obesity.

I also like this definition of entrepreneurship: “The pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” That fits the Foundation to a T as we pursue the audacious goal of building a Culture of Health in the United States. Continue reading

Five years on: The Unmentionables of Health 2.0

Five years ago, Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya bravely turned over their main stage to Alexandra Drane and a posse of thinkers, doers, and builders working on removing the real barriers to good health — all the stuff that nobody wants to talk about but which we know is at the center of people’s lives. Continue reading


Pew Research: U.S. Population by Age, 1950-206What if this was played on a loop in Times Square? What if every health conference displayed it on a screen at the front of the hall, to accompany every speaker? How might we prepare for what is coming?

I’m looking forward to next week’s Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA, where issues like caregiving and our aging population will be discussed, including on the “Unmentionables of Health” panel (Tuesday afternoon).

Thoughts, comments, inspiration, tips welcome in the comments!

Share the glow

Conference tweets are a little like brunch pics on social media.

Stanford Medicine X: Sunday morning panel

Sometimes I want to reach out and say, “Shhh, it’s OK. I’m so happy that you’re happy with your eggs, but you don’t need to show them to me.”

Then again, sometimes you see a pic that makes your mouth water and you think, “Next time, that’s going to be me eating that yummy food.” Or you go into your kitchen and cook up something delicious right here, right now, inspired by your friend’s experience.

Maybe that’s why we can be so manic on social media. We want other people to feel what we’re feeling. We want to share the glow.

That’s what I hope to do when I share my experience at Stanford Medicine X, where the glow is so very bright. I want your mouth to water. I want you to get some of that good stuff for yourself, either by finding your way there next year or finding something similar locally.

I put together a Storify to capture the spirit of the panel I was on along with Pamela Ressler, Meredith Gould, and Colleen Young (pictured above). The experience of preparing for that panel — and sharing the conversation so openly with the world on the livestream — was transformational. I think we are really on to something. I’m not going to let the fact that the conference ended stop me from continuing to push forward on what we learned together.

Pam Colleen Susannah Meredith photo by Gilles

Post-panel photo by Gilles Frydman

If you want to see more of our brunch pics from Medicine X, check out:

I’ll add links to other sources of the Medicine X Glow if I spot them. Please post in the comments if you’ve got ideas about our panel topic: how to create, build, nurture, and spread community in health. And, related: how to share the magic of being at a conference (or brunch).

Oh, and compliments to the chef, Larry Chu, and his crazy-talented crew who cook up Medicine X for us. Delicious, year after year.

Public Q&A: career advice

I made a big career change recently and received quite a few emails asking how & why I did it. I also get a regular flow of inquiries from people new to the health/tech field who ask how I navigated my path up to this point.

First of all, pretty much everyone tells a good story in retrospect, including me. So take other people’s career advice for what it is: highly subjective interpretations of personal history.

But, in case it’s useful, here’s the advice I share with people who ask: Continue reading