Dr. Linda Smith walks into a room at Providence Alaska Medical Center, ready with a stethoscope and a huge grin. She teases her patient, Dawn Dillard, saying that her spiky hair recently resembled a "faux hawk."
Dillard found out she had uterine cancer a year ago. Her oncologist gave her a year to live. The 57-year-old has beaten those odds, but now her kidneys are failing. After the laughs are over, Smith sits down on the edge of Dillard's bed, leans in, and starts talking about a procedure Dillard will have.
It's much better to prevent illness than to treat it: less time, less money, less suffering. But prevention is a surprisingly hard sell with doctors and the public. That's true even though preventable chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are the most common causes of disability and premature death in the U.S.
David Green is a man on a mission to drive down the cost of medical devices and health services.
His tactic: Use market forces and slightly tweaked business strategies to make health care accessible to even the poorest people. And he's had some amazing success.
I caught up with Green (no relation to NPR's David Greene) at a company he is launching in Chicago that's taking on the high cost of hearing aids. He's demonstrating how to program his company's new hearing device on a cellphone.