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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How Health Care Reform Can Help the Networks: New Ideas for TV shows

My post about using a reality TV show to resolve the question of who would emerge victorious in the battle of MBA's vs entrepreneurs generated some errant Google searches. Those who were looking for "reality TV show business plan" found a post that compared post-Bear Sterns Wall Street to a post-Kirstie Alley doughnut binge and an animated discussion of the Apprentice Season 3.

To make amends, I have actual TV show ideas inspired by my work in health care and the health care reform debates.

The Fight of the Undead: There could be a Heroes-esque on-going battle between ACORN and Angry Town Hall Mobs. Or the Angry Town Hall Mob could be zombies who invade and moan about government takeovers. Or ACORN could be hipster vampires with carefully tousled hair who try to save uninsured undead.

Health Care's Version of 24 (which would increase to 36 by 2015 since everything in health care increases faster than inflation): What about Senator Max Baucus as a Jack Bauer character from 24? He's given the impossible task of creating a health care bill that needs to appeal to both Sarah Palin and Dennis Kucinich, his friends become enemies, his enemies become friends, and participating in long discussions about Medicare reimbursement methodology or actuarial equivalency must qualify as torture in some state. At the end, he could finally disappear into the Montana wilderness, grow a beard, and become a vigilante who hunts down everyone who wronged him in the health care debate. Then he would flee to Canada to destroy their health care system.

Teen Dramas: I could see all of the major health care stakeholders being cast in a high school drama like the Hills, Gossip Girls, or Beverly Hills 90210. The pharmaceutical industry could be drama queen divas who take all the drugs that they make, put them in the water, and get the school hooked. Physicians would be the independent loners who don't want to participate in anything without being begged. Hospitals would be the socially awkward but included since they will get alcohol and throw the parties (kind of like hospitals keep building up their facilities so physicians and patients come to use them). The insurance plans would be the villain because you need a villain and they do it as well as anyone.

As far as new TV shows that could replace flagship medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, or ER, there are 2 untapped areas. We have already seen heroic doctors, oversexed residents, and the goofy hospital cast. No one wants to see the insurance industry portrayed on TV because the public dislikes them and insurance can be a really boring topic. There is no way to make an actuarial pricing exercise to determine if a benefit meets the new mandate on therapeutic small animal coverage sound dramatic, funny, or even comprehensible. Here are my 2 ideas based on my insider perspective.

Accurate Psychiatric Staff Drama: There was a short-lived drama called Wonderland that portrayed the psychiatrists as the "best, brightest, and toughest" with "lives as complex as their patients." Anyone who has experience in the mental health field would know that an overly serious angle is doomed. Physicians who want to be serious or heroes become surgeons since they can save the world with a few micro-slices. Physicians who are goofy, socially awkward, or just plain weird become psychiatrists. Leave the patients alone and just focus on the fact the only difference between mental health staff and patients is that one has keys and ID badges.

When I worked in mental health, I've participated in discussions on whether or not the patient's purchase of a Star Trek Enterprise model ship was a regression of their illness or just being a Trekkie. Besides psychiatry, there's also psychology, social work, nursing, addictions treatment, who have their goofy approaches that generate skepticism by others. As a result, there are equally skeptical patients about all the different approaches. The idiosyncratic nature of mental health staff would supply a TV show with endless material.

Nurses Aren't just Doctor Candy: Despite the prominence of nurses in hospitals, they are generally only portrayed in TV shows as flirting with doctors, kissing doctors, or in bed with doctors. Occasionally, they provide medical care with doctors. However, there is the untapped high school drama-esque world of nursing where older nurses haze new nurses, surgical nurses look down at nurses who work on the medical floor nurses and all look down at nurses who don't work in hospitals. There's also the battle of the shifts, where day shift nurses think that the night shift is incompetent while the night shift thinks that days staff are b!tchy divas. Besides, the drama, the nurses provide 90% of the care that patients receive hospitals so there's plenty of opportunity to show them saving lives. Actually, a TV show that shows nurses as a sorority gone bad probably wouldn't help show the profession in a more positive light than current shows. But the show could show the doctors as nurse candy to at least make things even.
Oh, if any of my ideas to get turned into TV shows, the writing credit can be attributed to Deadhedge and I'll provide my mailing address for royalty checks.

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