The policymakers we have tasked with improving our health care system are well-meaning but have limited optics. I don’t blame them. Capitol Hill is a long way from the hospital bedside. Patients and their caregivers are much better positioned to see routine opportunities for improving the value of our health care system. That is why we want to help the people who spend their time inside the walls of the American health care system amplify their voices.
Do you have a story about a time a medical bill was higher than you expected it to be? Or you wanted to find out what a test or treatment would cost and struggled to find the answer? How about a time that you figured out a way to actually deliver or receive better care at a lower cost? We want to hear from students, professors, patients, nurses, teenagers, octogenarians—anyone with a real story from the frontlines.
For the last three years, more than 300 Americans from all over the nation have submitted stories to our annual essay contest. To date, these stories have helped drive a productive public discussion about the role of clinicians in health care spending and the challenges providers face in making care affordable. The stories have been featured in almost every major media outlet, including National Public Radio, ABC Television, and the New York Times. They have also helped policymakers improve their perspectives. The Institute of Medicine used the essay contest submissions as case studies for an influential report. The Massachusetts State House used the stories for an oversight hearing on medical debt.
We’re building on this momentum with a new essay contest that will be chaired by four leaders with a track record for transformative change: Andy Grove (the former Intel CEO who is credited with driving the growth phase of the Silicon Valley); Maureen Bisognano (a nurse who became president of the world-famous Institute for Healthcare Improvement); David Goldhill (a television executive whose personal experience with the health care system led to a solutions-focused bestseller praised by conservatives and progressives alike); and Steven Brill (a journalist whose recent expose on medical bills motivated Time magazine to dedicate its entire feature section to a single story by a single author for the first time in their 90-year history).
Help us build a dialogue between well-meaning policymakers and well-meaning caregivers. Nothing is more powerful than a good story when it comes to motivating change. The best submissions are short, informal, and conversational. Entries are due by December 1, 2013. Thanks to our partner sponsors, the Association of American Medical Colleges and Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, we have $4,000 to award to the cream of the crop. We’re eager to hear from you: costsofcare.org/essay.
—Dr. Neel Shah is the executive director of Costs of Care, an independent nonprofit that helps patients and their caregivers deflate medical bills. He is also an ob/gyn based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an investigator at Ariadne Labs. His Wing of Zock column, the Teaching Value Project, appears monthly. He can be reached at email@example.com.