The Hot Spotters: Lessons from the Front Lines of America's Health Care Crisis

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This event is co-sponsored by the Northern California chapter of SPJ.



Dr. Jeffrey Brenner has developed a system that's tackling two of health care's most intrinsic problems: cost and quality of care. Celebrated in a New Yorker article by Dr. Atul Gawande and in an accompanying FRONTLINE documentary, this pioneering practitioner is trying to reinvent the nation’s fragmented and inefficient way of caring for the sick. Doctors and hospitals currently profit from the revolving door of visits made by the sickest. Dr. Brenner aims to shake up the hospital-based culture of medicine.

Operating out of Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest, most violent places in America, Brenner has designed a way to care for his city’s sickest. His philosophy centers around providing care and caring, just like your mother would offer it, he says.

Dr. Brenner’s teams of social workers and health promoters fan out into the city — meeting at home with the chronically ill and helping them address the crises in their lives that affect their health. He couples that with a rigorous examination of data to identify the most frequent users of expensive emergency services.

In this webinar offered by Reporting on Health, an initiative of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, journalists, policy thinkers and clinicians have a chance to hear about and discuss the new models for care that Dr. Brenner and others are inventing.

The buzz words for such approaches – “accountable care organizations,” “medical homes” and “hot spotters” — are familiar only to those deeply versed in health care. But the stakes for success or failure with such approaches should be understood by everyone. The question confronting policy makers and clinicians now is whether the Affordable Care Act, recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, goes far enough to promote these radical changes in health care delivery.  

Brenner calls his approach a “game changer” that can shake up the hospital-based culture of medicine. His non-profit Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers has seen repeat emergency visits decline for expensive and heavy ER users. If these ideas can be applied more broadly, they could potentially save billions of dollars nationally in hospital costs, he says. Now he’s working with a coalition of business and health care leaders to change state laws so that these cost effective approaches can be rewarded by insurers.

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