A Quick Study: Daughter of Nurse, Doctor Makes JAMA

Spring 2014 As Seen in Our Spring 2014 Issue
A Quick Study: Daughter of Nurse, Doctor Makes JAMA
Jilian Bernstein (daughter) and Kirsten Hickerson (mother)

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in the Bernstein family. Jillian, a ninth-grader, was recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine with her father Joseph, a physician, to the delight of her mom, Hopkins Nursing doctoral student Kirsten Hickerson.

The Pennsylvania teen helped turn a mealtime discussion of medical cost transparency into a research project on what an uninsured patient could be expected to pay for a common procedure at various local hospitals. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

It all started at the dinner table … when Joseph Bernstein told his daughter (then in eighth grade) about a study of how difficult it was for consumers to find out the cost of a hip replacement.

They decided that … she should try asking 20 area hospitals for the price of an electrocardiogram (EKG), a generic procedure that should cost about the same regardless of the patient’s age and condition. Yet just three of the 20 revealed their price for an EKG. And those prices varied widely: $137, $600 and $1,200. “It was pretty astonishing,” the younger Bernstein said.

“Jillian did conduct a wonderful study, but I believe she learned a more important lesson,” says Hickerson. “She often said how badly she felt for people who had to navigate the system; specifically calling departments, being put on hold, getting disconnected. She said she could not imagine being sick and having to make these calls and not get clear information. I believe this really shows who our daughter is–someone who really wants to empathize and care for others.”

Asked by the Inquirer whether Jillian is destined for a career in medicine, Joseph Bernstein said, “We haven’t talked her out of it.”

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