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New Yorker makes piece on health-care costs palatable with people

By Flickr.com user Truthout.org

Atul Gawande, staff writer, New Yorker

Atul Gawande

New Yorker writer Atul Gawande, a doctor himself,  chronicles efforts in several places to lower health-care costs. In Camden, N.J., he writes about “a strange new approach to health care: to look for the most expensive patients in the system and then direct resources and brainpower toward helping them.”

Today’s Tip: Put faces on the figures, says Gabriel Kahn, professor of professional practice at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

“When you can illustrate a compelling statistical case with a human face, you have a winning story,” Gabriel says.

Gabriel, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, made the article a reading assignment for his class the week before

Gabriel Kahn, professor of professional practice, USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism

Gabriel Kahn

I contacted him. He says the statistics in the story tell a compelling tale. For instance, 1 percent of the patients in Camden account for 30 percent of the costs; a single patient runs up a $3.5 million tab, he says.

“Just by stopping there, readers and policy makers could jump to a quick and easy conclusion. But then, throughout the story, Gawande introduces us to these patients,” he says. “This adds a new layer of understanding, as we learn just how tricky it is to deliver cost-effective care to the most problematic patients.”

In Featured, Health care, Investigation.

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