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Friday, March 8, 2013

Escape Fire

Kim Bailey

Health System Improvement Program Director

Necessity is the mother of invention. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Pick your favorite idiom, but the point remains the same: Sometimes the only way to get out of a bad situation is to innovate. This theme is at the heart of the brilliant documentary on the health care system, Escape Fire.

The film begs the question: How do we fix a system in which we spend nearly twice as much as other countries and have little (or nothing) to show for it when it comes to health outcomes? In response, it turns to examples that fundamentally change the way care is practiced—acupuncture to treat pain in veterans returning from war, primary care that focuses on the health of the whole person, and cardiovascular care that treats the root causes of disease rather than moving quickly to costly surgical interventions, to name a few.

By focusing on game-changing examples, Escape Fire drives home the fact that the status quo just isn’t working. Of course, the limitation of a two-hour film is that it raises more questions than it answers. How do you scale a program that works well locally to meet the needs of a diverse nation? What incentives are needed to change the way that providers practice medicine? How can we combat the entrenched interests of an industry that profits from business as usual? 

As a viewer, I was inspired by the potential solutions raised, but left the film wanting more. Perhaps, though, that’s a part of why Escape Fire is so brilliant—it makes you think. And it will engage even the non-wonks among us. That, in and of itself, is quite a feat. If you have yet to see Escape Fire, your opportunity to do so is right around the corner. CNN will be airing the movie on Sunday, March 10, at 8pm and 11pm ET. Watch it, and then let us know what you think.