Health care in America, a view inside a hospital

Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer contains the first in an occasional series of stories by my colleague Michael Vitez from inside Abington Memorial Hospital in Montgomery County. The stories will examine the issues confronting health care in America from the front lines, a large community hospital.

As health-care spending continues to spiral up past the $2 trillion a year mark, Democrats and Republicans in Washington have not found much common ground to address many of these significant problems. So the people who lead and work in hospitals like Abington are left to adapt to the ever changing realities of health care in America.

Here's what Michael said about his series:

My goal is to spend a year at Abington, writing stories that show how one hospital deals with the biggest issues in health care today and also the changes that are coming fast and furious - regardless of what Congress and the President do - to hospitals and health care.

This first story looks at how the palliative care movement is medicine's response to the dismal way people have died. I try to show, up close, how the team works, the agony that families feel, the immense costs involved.

In future stories, I'm going to look at how a hospital struggles to bring down infection rates, how it handles patients who have nowhere to go, the madness of one Medicare rule, the impact of the uninsured, and more. I hope in the end readers will get a bedside view of how things work, how things are changing, and I hope a great appreciation for our common humanity.