A group of young doctors from the Clinical Excellence Research Center at the Stanford School of Medicine are looking for new models to make health care better and more affordable:

“Patel was second up in the presentation, a little nervous and barely tall enough to be seen behind the podium. She stated the problem in her target area: Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, with costs estimated to be $173 billion by 2020. These rising costs are unsustainable.

“And what do many poor-prognosis cancer patients get for all the money spent? ‘Horrible treatment,’ she said, citing a statistic that silenced the room: Seventy-three percent of terminal cancer patients never have an end-of-life discussion with their oncologists. ‘Many patients are rushed off to chemotherapy without understanding the big picture. And when predictable treatment side effects happen at night and on weekends, patients who are unable to reach their oncologist end up in misery in emergency rooms and hospitals. Later in their illness, many die painfully in intensive-care facilities that bankrupt their families emotionally – and sometimes financially.’

“During her presentation, Patel’s eyes became dark pools that threatened to overflow. A few people in the audience wept silently, perhaps remembering loved ones who had similarly suffered.

“‘Overall, these added services improve the quality of life of patients, giving them what they need and want without delay,’ she added after describing her model. ‘And best of all, we lower health insurance costs … simply by doing the right thing.’”