…And then there’s Anuj Desai, Vice President of Market Development for the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), Member, Crain’s Class of 2013’s 40 under 40 and superconnector, which helped to make him one of New York Digital Health Accelerator’s mentors extraordinaire.
First generation American-born (“Exit 4,” he offered, referring to his native state of New Jersey), Desai has always been a connector, even in grad school, where he was at the University of Maryland getting his MBA. It was there that he was one of the fellows who pioneered the school’s health IT Think Tank (his undergraduate degree is in biotech, from Rutgers). Next stop, back to New Jersey, first at Pfizer, then on to Johnson & Johnson, where he worked in health care strategy and development until health tech exploded and the investment dollars started flowing. Desai decided the time was ripe for healthcare IT and made his move to NYeC.
“I was blown away!” he exclaimed. “I saw it as the platform to change healthcare; the platform for innovation, and a chance to be at the forefront and leading it for the country.”
The NYeC is a non-profit funded by state and federal grants to help providers shift to electronic health records. “One of the goals is to make patient records available, no matter where you need them. When you go to a specialist, no matter: they have access to your full medical records. It’s about helping providers to get the information they need to provide better care, and to give patients control of their healthcare by providing the right tools.
As for privacy issues: that, too, has been taken into consideration, with SHIN-NY (Statewide Health Information Network of NY), which connects health records across the state, ensuring that all New Yorkers have secure, accessible health information online. “Patients have to give their consent for the information to be shared,” Desai explained. “Only providers and doctors have access to the information, once the patient has signed off. As for pharma companies and researchers, that would require a separate level of consent, and we’re not pushing for that.”
You’d think that he might have wanted to be a doctor at some point in his illustrious career, but the truth is: his dream was to be a music teacher. “I’m really into music and traveled through Europe with a jazz band, playing saxophone. Then I saw Mr. Holland’s Opus. That’s when I dreamed of being a music teacher. The passion he felt about teaching students and how it changed their lives. I love training and guiding and teaching and leading.”
Which is pretty much what he’s doing. He still plays the saxophone to relax and he may have followed his passion to a different arena, but Anuj Desai is still very much in center stage.