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Sharing Your Stories to Give Washington a Telescope

By Dr. Neel T. Shah
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The policymakers we have tasked with improving our healthcare system mean well 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 healthcare system. That is why we want to help the people who spend their time inside the walls of the American healthcare system amplify their voice.

Do you have a story about a time a medical bill was higher than you expected it to be? Or a time 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, octagenarians—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 Costs of Care’s annual essay contest. To date, these stories have helped drive a productive public discussion about the role of clinicians in healthcare spending and the challenges providers face in making care affordable. The stories have been featured in almost every major media outlet, including National Public RadioABC Television, and the New York Times. They have also helped policymakers improve their optics. 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.

Today Costs of Care is 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 healthcare system led 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 their entire feature section to a single story by a single author for the first time in their 90 year history).

Help us build a telescope 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 1st, 2013, and thanks to our partner sponsors (the Association of American Medical Colleges and Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare), we have $4000 to award to the cream of the crop.  We’re eager to hear from you: costsofcare.org/essay

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