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Win $1,000: Essay Contest Challenges Docs To Offer Solutions To Healthcare Costs

Do you have a story about a medical bill that was higher than you expected it to be? Or a time when you wanted to know how much a medical test or treatment might cost? How about a time you figured out a way to save money while still delivering high-value care?

Costs of Care, a physician-run nonprofit based in Boston, has launched its second annual national healthcare essay contest, with the goal of expanding the public discourse on the role of doctors, nurses, and other care providers in controlling healthcare costs.

Executive Director Neel Shah, who is also a third-year obstetrics and gynecology resident at the Harvard Medical School, founded Costs of Care after he began thinking, as a med student, that physicians had a good deal of power over healthcare costs but rarely thought about them. “There’s a lot of talk about insurers and patients, but at the end of the day doctors decide what’s on the bill,” he told the LA Times.

Last year, Costs of Care launched an innovative essay contest that emphasized the importance of price transparency in everyday medicine by gathering more than 100 personal stories from patients, nurses, and doctors across the nation.

A vascular surgeon in Arizona, for example, wrote about a time a hospital assigned an out-of-network anesthesiologist to a surgery, sending a patient’s bill skyrocketing, according to the LA Times. “There was no mechanism to make sure all of the providers a patient uses were in network,” Shah said.  “That’s a simple check.”

This year, Costs of Care is looking for more stories, and will award $1000 prizes for stories about the importance of price transparency as well as solution-oriented stories that illustrate ways to reduce harmful healthcare spending and save patients’ money.

As the economy struggles to recover, the spiraling costs of healthcare in the United States have become a contentious political focal point without an obvious solution. Traditionally, health care providers have been reluctant to discuss their own role in healthcare spending.

However, Dr. Shah, “Ultimately, no amount of regulating, reorganizing, or otherwise reforming the healthcare system will successfully contain costs unless healthcare providers are invested in fixing the problem.”

To help mobilize healthcare providers to examine their own role in spending, Costs of Care is launching an essay contest that will collect and widely disseminate stories from the front lines of medicine. Costs of Care will award $4000 in prizes to top submissions. Two $1000 prizes will be reserved for patients, and two $1000 prizes will be reserved for care providers.

Preference will be given to stories that best demonstrate the importance of cost-awareness in medicine. 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.

To help select the winning entries, Costs of Care has partnered with five health luminaries who will serve as judges:

  • Peter Orzsag, former Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget
  • Dr. C. Everett Koop, former United States Surgeon General
  • Hon. Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan
  • Dr. Susan Love, women’s health and cancer research advocate
  • Dr. Alan Garber, health economist and Harvard University Provost

All submissions will be due on November 15th, 2011. Finalists will be announced on December 15th, 2011 and the $1,000 prize winners will be announced on January 15th, 2012. All qualifying submissions will be published biweekly at http://www.costsofcare.org during the 2012 calendar year.


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