Every so often, a film comes along that makes us sit up and take notice. Escape Fire is one of those films.  Executive producers Donna Karan (fashion designer) and Scott Douglass along with directors Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke produced this magnificent film that premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Why is this film so important? Because it takes a heart wrenching look at our very broken healthcare system. “Escape Fire” is a technique used by firefighters who are faced with an impending wildfire. They purposely set an area of grassland on fire so that when a raging wildfire approaches, there’s nothing left to burn. It’s a drastic measure that saved lives which is what we desperately need in our healthcare system.

The film addresses several issues that include

  • The influence of drug companies on healthcare
  • The problems with overmedicating patients
  • The over-treatment of patients
  • Paying more for healthcare and receiving less
  • The importance of preventing disease
  • The “fee-for-service” payment system for doctors and hospitals
  • The importance of treating the whole person and not just her illness

As a pregnant woman, you might think these issues don’t affect you but they do; especially issues that involve money. What the film teaches us is that doctors are paid for procedures and not the quality of care given to the patient. I personally witnessed this first-hand. There is a line from the movie where a physician says “I don’t care about my productivity. I care about helping my patients.” I became teary-eyed because that was the story of my life for 15 years. How many times had I said that during the course of my professional career?

A former employer hired a friend, paid him for the number patients he saw and consequently put the patients’ lives at risk. It was an exercise in futility trying to get state regulators and medical societies to stop this clinic from scheduling 80 (no, that is not a typo) patients per day. Unfortunately the practice continued until the administration changed the way the physician was paid. When he was paid by the hour rather than by the number of patients seen, he no longer had a burning desire to see 80 patients per day.

As a pregnant woman, you are entering a healthcare system that is flawed which was the inspiration for writing The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy®.  I strongly encourage each of you to be alert and outspoken regarding your healthcare. The life you save, might very well be your own.