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When journalist Steven Brill first began investigating the American health care system for his article "Bitter Pill, he started in a familiar place: medical bills. What he found shocked him. One patient, for example, paid $2,293 per day just for room and board in a hospital - about ten times more than he would have paid for a hotel room - and had little choice in the matter.
"There's no marketplace at all," Brill says. "The person buying the service has no leverage, no power, and no visibility into the cost."
Imagine you're a doctor about to write a prescription for a patient, but you realize what she really needs is food, or heat, or a safe place to live. For years, you had two options, says Rebecca Onie, co-founder and CEO of Health Leads. You could either adopt a "don't ask, don't tell policy" and look the other way, or spend valuable time away from clinical care addressing social needs. (In fact, one survey conducted at Bellevue hospital found that for every fifteen minute visit with a patient, doctors spent 9.2 minutes addressing social – and not medical – needs.) That’s where Health Leads comes in.