I’ve had the privilege of knowing Dr. Jay Bhatt since he was the chief health officer of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association in 2015 and 2016, and to work with him again during his tenure as chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association (AHA). He’s one of those rare doctors who is as committed to treating patients as he is to improving public health and healthcare at the systems level.
Jay is affectionately known as the ‘Dancing Doctor.’ He dances at the patient bedside and teaches a dance class to avoid physician burnout but, just as importantly, to evoke smiles and laughs to connect with his patients. “I could see the smile that would come to their faces, from ear to ear.”
Jay stresses the importance of dancing into discomfort and uncertainty. For Jay, that meant leaving a high-profile policy and systemic role at the AHA during the pandemic to work as a frontline doctor in underserved communities in Chicago.
This Is Our Shot
In his current role as chief clinical product officer and medical director of the Medical Home Network, Dr. Bhatt works to optimize and innovate care provided to 160,000 of Chicago’s most vulnerable Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries. He has been working to vaccinate these communities against the severe impacts of COVID-19, traveling to churches and the residences of homebound seniors to meet patients where they are. He’s also is a national leader in the This Is Our Shot campaign that aims to counter misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and elevate personal stories from trusted messengers like doctors and nurses (#thisisourshot).
Jay recently was a guest on the Geneia podcast, and it is his insights about the role for the American public in promoting vaccine uptake that resonated most with me. You see I am one of those people who wanted to be vaccinated as soon as it was my turn. I was online at precisely 8:00 am on March 22nd when my home state of New Hampshire opened registration for my age group, and I never left my computer until I secured a vaccine appointment.
Most of my friends, family and peers are like me, wanting a COVID vaccine ASAP. In fact, surveys show an increasing number of Americans are vaccinated or willing to be vaccinated, up from 72 to 77 percent from January through the end of February.
Yet, I know there are people who remain hesitant. A Carnegie Mellon study shows “the share of unvaccinated adults who are hesitant to get a vaccine has remained constant, at around 23 percent.”
Reversing COVID Vaccine Hesitancy
That’s why I listened intently as Jay offered his insights into reversing vaccine resistance. He shared the story of a frontline worker in his building who was extremely reticent. Over a period of days, Jay listened and validated his concerns, actively fighting misinformation with science and evidence. He asked open-ended questions. He was empathetic, and ultimately helped him conclude the vaccine would help keep him and his loved ones safe.
In part one of the Geneia podcast, Dr. Jay Bhatt shares why he became a doctor and how to reverse vaccine hesitancy. In part two, he discusses the growing importance of AI in healthcare and data liquidity.