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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.”

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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