American Public Media launches Health Care Idea Generator

American Public Media, which produces radio shows such as Marketplace, has launched Health Care Idea Generator, a website dedicated to a discussion of how to improve the American health care system. Everyone seems to have an idea or two on what’s wrong with health care and how to fix it, so the site is an attempt to harness that energy.

The site is well designed, and the initial tour provides an easy-to-understand introduction to its various features. There are tabs to represent the perspectives of various stakeholders including caregivers, insurers, employers, the insured, and uninsured. There’s a nice little lead-in for each to provide the reader with an empathetic view of that constituency, although for some reason they’ve decided to bestow the nickname Pig to the fictional insurance industry representative.

Readers have shared some ideas already. Here are the first few I clicked on randomly:

  • Increase face time with doctors: Let doctors decide how much time to spend with patients (rather than be limited to 15 minutes by “insurance” and “business interests”)
  • Provide more coverage for prevention
  • Provide government support for mental health care of adopted children as they reach adulthood
  • Address the nursing shortage by providing more funding for nursing education and paying nurses more

Like so many of the health care ideas out there, all of these will end up boosting overall health care spending, which isn’t going to help our overall problems. I’m sure there are (or will be) other entries that address these aspects as well, but like I’ve said before the free lunch in health care is quite elusive.

One of the clever features of Turbotax is a little “bottom line” indicator that changes every time the user adds an entry.  Add a source of income and the tax owed numbers goes up, accompanied by rolling digits and sound effects, like a slot machine or cash register. Enter a deduction and the same thing happens –but in reverse. It’s a good way to keep track of where things stand.

It’s beyond the scope of the current site, but once a sufficient number of ideas are generated it would be interesting to attach a price tag to each, and then create a simulator that lets users pick and choose their favorite ideas in order to view the outcome along with its impact on costs. A really sophisticated version would look at the impact by constituency and account for interactions among the ideas. An interactive feature like that could really advance the debate.

Since most of the ideas are already out on the table (elsewhere if not yet on the site) maybe the simulator would be a better place to start.

April 18, 2008

2 thoughts on “American Public Media launches Health Care Idea Generator”

  1. PS — It turns out that “Pig” is not a fictional character.

  2. Pingback: Our Own System » Blog Archive » Participatory Reform

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