The nation’s health care system needs to learn to serve millions of Americans with consistent quality, reasonable cost, and decent service — much like popular chains like the Cheesecake Factory have learned to do in the restaurant world, Atul Gawande writes August 13, 2012 in The New Yorker. Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard School of Public Health, describes quality control methods used — including timers, computerized recipes, and kitchen managers who rate the food presentation on a scale of one to 10 before it’s served — in a Cheesecake Factory restaurant he visits in the Prudential Center in Boston.

“The critical question is how soon that sort of quality and cost control will be available to patients everywhere across the country. We’ve let healthcare systems provide us with the equivalent of greasy-spoon fare at four-star prices, and the results have been ruinous,” he writes. “The Cheesecake Factory model represents our best prospect for change. Some will see danger in this. Many will see hope. And that’s probably the way it should be.”

With health care reform in mind, Gawande reflects upon the process used when his mother underwent knee replacement surgery in a major Boston teaching hospital. He also discusses efforts by for-profit health systems like the Steward hospital chain to streamline medicine. He stops in to watch Steward medical staff use video technology to remotely track the status of hospitalized patients. “The way medical care is organized is changing — because the way we pay for it is changing,” he writes.

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