Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Costs of Care Essay Contest 2012: Stories from Patients and their Caregivers Uncover Opportunities to Improve Healthcare Value


Neel Shah, MD is the Executive Director of Costs of Care and a chief resident in obstetrics and gynecology based at Harvard Medical School.

As a presidential election looms and the American economy struggles to recover, the spiraling costs of healthcare have become a contentious political focal point without an obvious solution. Yet for patients and their caregivers, opportunities to get more bang for our buck present themselves every day. Over the last two years, as part of the Costs of Care Essay Contest, we have collected hundreds of anecdotes from all over the country that are filled with lessons learned.

Some stories describe all too common medical oversights. Renee Lux, a patient from Connecticut wrote to us about an unnecessary CT scan her doctor should have never ordered that labeled her with a preexisting condition and caused her insurance premiums to skyrocket. Other stories describe easily replicated ingenuity. Molly Kantor, a third year medical student, told us how she figured out how to treat her patient’s heart failure on a $100 budget.

Increasingly, these stories and the insights they provide are striking a chord, helping drive an important professional discourse that in recent months has reached the New England Journal of Medicine and even the Institute of Medicine. This effort has been buoyed by the success of the ABIM Foundation’s Choosing Wisely Campaign, and several other notable initiatives aimed at getting caregivers to examine their own role in healthcare spending.

That is why this year we’re running the contest again.

With the help of Jeffrey Drazen (editor-in-chief, New England Journal of Medicine), Donna Shalala (former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services), Zeke Emanuel (ethicist and former White House healthcare advisor) and Pauline Chen (surgeon and New York Times columnist), Costs of Care will be awarding $4000 in prizes to stories that best illustrate the importance of cost-awareness in medicine.

All stories are fair game and everyone is welcome to participate - examples may include a time a patient tried to find out what a test or treatment would cost but was unable to do so, a time that caring for a patient generated an unexpectedly a high medical bill, or a time a patient and care provider figured out a way to save money while still delivering high-value care. Submissions are due to contest@costsofcare.org no later than November 15, 2012.

Ultimately, no amount of regulating, reorganizing, or otherwise reforming the healthcare system will successfully contain costs unless we—both patients and providers--are invested in fixing the problem.

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