Today’s Report – June 13th

Atul Gawande‘s had quite a ride recently.

First he wrote an article in the New Yorker that demonstrated how certain communities spent twice as much on health care as other similar communities but with no corresponding improvement in outcomes. (I linked to that article recently. It really is compelling.)

Then his data got picked up by Peter Orszag, the White House Budget Director, who used it as an example of why it was important to talk about health care costs now, and as way to show that there was plenty of fat to cut in the system. (Orszag has now returned to the topic in his blog a couple of additional times. The first post has a ton of background data that shows exactly where the extra money is going. The other post is essentially a response to complaints about the focus on this topic.)

Recently, President Obama started using Gawande’s research and much more extensive and long-term research done at Dartmouth College as the basis for a whole series of policy speeches, including a “town hall” event on health care in Green Bay on Thursday. Obama is convinced that correcting these health care cost issues is the most important issue he can be working on.

And now, Gawande was invited to give the commencement speech at The Univeristy of Chicago Medical School. In the speech, he focuses on the same topic, but also tailors it to his audience by highlighting some of the lessons he’s learned in this area and giving them some advice on how to start to make a difference.

Here are his closing remarks:

Along the way, you will sometimes feel worn down and your cynicism taking over. But resist. Look for those in your community who are making health care better, safer, and less costly. Pay attention to them. Learn how they do it. And join with them.

If you serve the needs of your patients, if you work to ensure that both overtreatment and undertreatment are avoided, you will save your patients. You will also save our country. You are our hope. We thank you.


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