ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can we save our badly broken healthcare system?
WE PAY MORE, YET OUR HEALTH OUTCOMES ARE WORSE.
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 spending goes to preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society as the rest of the world combined. We pay more, yet our health outcomes are worse.
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. So it's not surprising that healthcare is at the top of many Americans' concerns and at the center of an intense political debate in our nation's Capitol. The current battle over cost and access, however, does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system.
ESCAPE FIRE DEFINED
ESCAPE FIRE 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. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. This film follows dramatic human stories as well as leaders fighting to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the US military. ESCAPE FIRE is about finding a way out. It's about saving the health of a nation.
escape fire noun, \is-'kāp\'fī(-ə)r\
- a swath of grassland or forest intentionally ignited in order to provide shelter from an oncoming blaze.
- an improvised, effective solution to a crisis that cannot be solved using traditional approaches.
In the research phase of ESCAPE FIRE, the filmmakers came across an influential speech delivered by Dr. Don Berwick years before he took office as the head of Medicare and Medicaid. The speech was published as a healthcare manifesto called Escape Fire: Lessons for the Future of Healthcare.
Dr. Berwick draws a parallel between the broken healthcare system and a forest fire that ignited in Mann Gulch, Montana. Just as the healthcare system lies perilously on the brink of combustion, the forest fire which seemed harmless at first was waiting to explode. A team of fifteen smokejumpers parachuted in to contain the fire, but soon they were running for their lives, racing to the top of a steep ridge. Their foreman, Wag Dodge, recognized that they would not make it.
With the fire barely two hundred yards behind him, he did a strange and marvelous thing. He invented a solution. His crew must have thought he had gone crazy as he took some matches out of his pocket, bent down and set fire to the grass directly in front of him. The fire spread quickly uphill, and he stepped into the middle of the newly burnt area, calling for his crew to join him.
Healthcare, it's in really bad trouble. The answer is among us.
But nobody followed Wag Dodge. They ignored him, clinging to what they had been taught, and they ran right by the answer. The fire raged past Wag Dodge and overtook the crew, killing thirteen men and burning 3,200 acres. Dodge survived, nearly unharmed.
Dodge had invented what is now called an "escape fire," and soon after it became standard practice. As Berwick says in the film, "We're in Mann Gulch. Healthcare, it's in really bad trouble. The answer is among us. Can we please stop and think and make sense of the situation and get our way out of it?"
In the summer of 2009, we sat down with Donna Karan to discuss our broken healthcare system. After losing her husband to cancer, she was appalled by the state of American medicine and founded the Urban Zen foundation. We were inspired by Donna's compassion for patients and passion for change.
We then spent six months doing our own research on healthcare to figure out whether it was possible to take on such a huge topic. As we progressed, we kept hearing from a wide range of sources that we had a disease-care system, not a healthcare system, a system designed to reward quantity over quality, high-tech over high-touch. How did this perverse system come to be? How could we find our way out of this mess? As we started filming, we began finding characters/storylines that helped answer these questions, and we grew more and more excited that there was an important film to be made.
The goal of ESCAPE FIRE is transcend the misinformation and partisan debates.
It's a big subject for a feature-length documentary, and it's a subject that carries with it decades of debate and misconception. Much of the recent media attention about healthcare has focused on the partisan politics in our nation's Capitol -- from the contentious passage of the Affordable Care Act to the ongoing polarized debate about its impact -- yet our country is still unclear about what is really wrong with healthcare and how to move forward.
The goal of ESCAPE FIRE is to address what might be done to create a sustainable system for the future, to transcend the misinformation, the angry partisan debates and create a clear and comprehensive look at healthcare in America.
By combining powerful human stories with leading experts, we hope our film can help catalyze a paradigm shift in how our country views health and healing. ESCAPE FIRE will allow audiences to come away with a clearer understanding of how and why our system is broken, the barriers to change, and potential solutions, or "escape fires," that could help fix our system. We hope people will be empowered to help push for societal change. We also hope to inspire individuals to take better control of their personal health, realizing that in many cases they have the power to heal.
- Matthew Heineman & Susan Froemke