PBS NewsHour Examines U.S. Health Care Costs in Week-Long Series

Tune in alert for PBS NewsHour’s series on health costs this week.

PBS NewsHour Examines U.S. Health Care Costs in Week-Long Series This week, the PBS health team takes an in-depth look at health costs in the U.S.

From PBS

Along with a broadcast piece by Health Correspondent Betty Ann Bowser, the NewsHour will feature a week-long series of accompanying articles online, detailing what’s behind rising health care costs in the U.S.

On the Wednesday, October 24 broadcast of the PBS NEWSHOUR (check local listings for showtimes), Bowser will report on a hospital system in Seattle, Wash., that has decreased costs and increased patient satisfaction by using a new system emphasizing efficiency in patient care.

“Waste is all those things which add no value for the customer,” said Dr. Gary Kaplan, of Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center. “It's embarrassing, frankly . . . 70 percent to 95 percent of time that's spent adds no value for the customer. The waste of wait, the waste of movement, the waste of over processing, the waste of excessive inventory--all that is waste and it had no value.”

At Virginia Mason, administrators have borrowed ideas from the Toyota assembly line to keep costs down. If any Toyota autoworker sees something wrong on the assembly line, the worker can stop the entire assembly line—shutting down a whole factory—until the problem is fixed.

Virginia Mason has applied this same procedure to health care—any hospital employee can report apparent safety problems to administration, shutting down treatment plans until administrators can investigate. That's helped slash the hospitals liability and malpractice rates by more than 60 percent. Bowser takes an in-depth look at the innovative system and how it helps cut health costs, talking with doctors, administrators and patients at Virginia Mason. “The case for change is compelling,” Kaplan tells Bowser.

“The resistance to change and the anchoring in the status quo in still very strong and so that's our objective here. We talk at Virginia Mason about transforming healthcare and some may say well it's delusions of grandeur and all we really want to do is show what's possible.”

Along with Wednesday’s broadcast piece, the NewsHour website will be exploring the issue of health costs and possible fixes throughout the week:

· Online Now: Online now we have an examination of why healthcare costs in the US exceed those of other developed nations and a graphical look at what we get - and what we don’t get – for our money.

· Tuesday: NewsHour Correspondent Hari Sreenivasan talks with Elizabeth Bailey, author of "The Patient's Checklist: 10 Simple Hospital Checklists to Keep You Safe, Sane and Organized."

· Wednesday: Visit the NewsHour's health page to watch Betty Ann Bowser's full report from Seattle's Virginia Mason Hospital & Medical Center -- before it airs on the broadcast. Also online, we examine the "Top 7 Drivers of U.S. Health Care Costs" and illustrate what the U.S. could buy with the $750 billion wasted in U.S. health care each year.

· Thursday: In a "Reporter's Notebook," Betty Ann Bowser examines Virginia Mason's decision to eliminate a staple of the American hospital: the waiting room. · Friday: The NewsHour will share some first-person accounts submitted by NewsHour viewers on inefficiencies in the health care system.

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