Is the price right? Play ‘Dr. Plinko’

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Most pa­tients and physi­cians have no idea what drugs and med­i­cal prod­ucts cost, ex­cept that they are too darn ex­pen­sive.

Dr. Adam Berk­witt of the Yale School of Medicine has come up with an en­ter­tain­ing way to change that. This month, at a New Haven, Conn., arts fes­ti­val, the pe­di­atric hos­pi­tal­ist de­buted a game show mod­eled on “The Price is Right,” in which con­tes­tants guess the prices of com­mon over-the-counter med­i­cal prod­ucts.

The game’s ed­u­ca­tional twist, ac­cord­ing to Yale News, is that the con­tes­tants sep­a­rately guess the price for the same item at a store such as Wal-Mart and at the hos­pi­tal. As in “The Price is Right,” if they an­swer cor­rectly they earn chips they will drop on a 13-foot “Plinko” peg­board. That’s why the game is named “Dr. Plinko.” At the end, they find out their monthly med­i­cal bill, based on their in­sur­ance and health sta­tus.

Berk­witt grew up “ob­sessed” with TV game shows, he told the Yale student news­pa­per. As a doc­tor, he’s fas­ci­nated and baf­fled by health­care costs. Even with the grow­ing em­pha­sis on trans­parency and con­sumerism, “it’s dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand where these prices come from,” he said. “Who profits? The ‘Dr. Plinko’ game is a fun way to talk about the ab­sur­dity of these costs.”

One ex­am­ple he cites: the $3 hos­pi­tal re­tail price for a 500 mg vi­ta­min C tablet ver­sus the 3-cent price at Wal-Mart.

He’s not try­ing to point blame for high med­i­cal prices with his game show, which he’d like to con­tinue pre­sent­ing. But he hopes it will spur ques­tions such as, “What else could we be spend­ing on, such as ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial ser­vices, if we weren’t pay­ing so much for health­care?”

Berk­witt cre­ated the game for a lo­cal arts fes­ti­val.

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