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'Escape Fire' documentary explores broken system


By Gregg Blesch
Posted: October 13, 2012 - 12:01 am ET
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Any hospital executive knows the argument that healthcare in America is undermined by a reimbursement model that pays for procedures instead of outcomes.

Filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke have made a documentary that presents that case to a general audience, portraying an industry and policies too concerned with treating sickness and too little with improving health.

Their movie—“Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare”—opened Oct. 5 in a modest 12 theaters but has received considerable attention and generally favorable reviews from critics. The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert, for example, says the movie delivers its message with “stunning clarity,” and the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan says it does so while being “determinedly nonideological.”

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Turan may not be familiar with healthcare's political battle lines. One of the film's guiding interviews is with former CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick, whom Republicans branded as a proponent of healthcare rationing and who resigned in late 2011 when it was clear Democrats wouldn't risk a new healthcare fight by scheduling a confirmation hearing. Berwick gave the filmmakers their title with an anecdote about a smokejumper who sets a fire to create a burned area that will protect him from a fast-approaching forest fire while his crew perishes as they attempt to outrun the blaze. “Can we please stop and think and make sense of the situation and get our way out of it?” Berwick says in the film. Modern Healthcare sought a review from someone who knows more about healthcare than movies. This week we have the take of Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove. Cosgrove is interviewed briefly in the film and, as he explains in his review, the Cleveland Clinic is shown as looking for a way out of the fire. Have you seen the film? What's your take? Write us at letters@modernhealthcare.com.

—Gregg Blesch,
news editor



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