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Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

April 23, 2013

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, produced and directed by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke, highlights the current cost and unsustainability of healthcare, but also the potential solution of a more integrative, high-touch, and low-cost intervention.

The recent documentary featured on CNN, Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, signifies a tipping point in American healthcare. It tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time, of saving our broken healthcare system.

Escape Fire cites astounding statistics: "American healthcare costs are rising so rapidly that they could reach $4.2 trillion annually, roughly 20% of our gross domestic product, within ten years. We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs––almost as much as the rest of the world combined. We pay more, yet our health outcomes are worse. About 65% of Americans are overweight and almost 75% of healthcare costs are spent on preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society."

The documentary further examines the "powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care."  According to Andrew Weil, MD, "We have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system."

Several sections of the film are dedicated to the discussion of ways in which Integrative Medicine can bring solutions, including reduced costs, improved patient outcomes, and prevention of disease. Leaders of the Integrative Medicine movement advocate that bringing more high-touch, low-cost interventions for health and healing into our high-tech, costly system may be an "Escape Fire" from our healthcare crisis. For instance, the use of acupuncture in the military for pain management, PTSD, and reducing dependency on pharmaceutical drugs; Dean Ornish, MD on "lifestyle medicine" for the treatment of heart disease; and Dr. Andrew Weil's fellowship at the University of Arizona provides health professionals more tools to help their patients through Integrative Medicine.

The utility of this documentary is that it not only explains the plight of the primary care doctor in our current system, but also the rationale of the "triple aim" to optimize health system performance, coming from former Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Don Berwick, MD, and integrative health and medicine leaders Andrew Weil, MD, and Wayne Jonas, MD. Among American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) objectives as "Evaluat[ing] the necessity of, and alternatives to, invasive and costly tests, medications, and procedures," is to "identify strategies for incorporating integrative medicine into an existing practice.

Click here to view the feature of Escape Fire on CNN.

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