Review of Redefining Health Care, by Porter and Teisberg

Looking back through my records, it appears that I began Porter and Tesiberg’s Redefining Health Care last November, so it’s a bit embarrassing that I’ve only now, in March, managed to finish it. In my defense, about halfway through it, I left it on a plane, and that initiated a bit of an odyssey to get it back, but really it’s just a long book and I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked with other books over the last two months. But enough excuses…

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Not technology, but management

I took a longer break than expected from my reading over the holidays, so I’m only about halfway done with Porter and Teisberg’s Redefining Health Care. But despite that, I’m still finding lots of thought-provoking passages as I make my way slowly through their work.

I came across this one right before the holidays and have been meaning to write about it ever since: “We have come to believe strongly that technology is important, but that the major problem the [health care] system is facing today is not technology but management” (p. 100).

In my experience, this is an all-too-common problem at the organizations I work with inside and outside health care. Almost daily I bump up against leaders who are willing to absent themselves from the fundamentals of management in the hopes that a new technology will solve business problems.

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Coming clean about health care reform

The nation needs a new way of thinking about the health care system. There is no one villain here. Neither the problem nor the solution will be found in any single aspect of the system or in any single actor. Indeed, the whole approach of attempting to redress competing interests is doomed from the start. The only real solution is to unite all participants in the system in a common purpose.

From Redefining Health Care, Porter and Teisberg, pp. 2-3

This blog is a place to think about the challenges facing all kinds of leaders: corporate, government, nonprofit, education, and personal. And over the last 24 months, I’ve had many clients and projects in the health care space, where leaders of all stripes are facing historical challenges that have implications for individuals, organizations, and U.S. society as a whole.

Although I’ve enjoyed my work with these health care organizations tremendously, lately I’ve found myself feeling sheepish and guilty that I’ve all but withdrawn from following the raging debates in the U.S. over the future of health care. Honestly, the complexity of the debate combined with the vitriol and narrow-mindedness exhibited on all sides has really discouraged me from even trying. I’m not the kind of person who’s going to write his Senator or picket outside a government building, so what’s the use of getting wound up over an issue that will be decided in places far, far removed from my world of family, friends, and work?

But despite all that (and no matter how well I understand the business operations of payers and providers on a day-to-day level), there’s a nagging voice inside me that wonders whether I can really be a trusted advisor to my health care clients over the long haul if I don’t understand (or at least keep up with) the contours of the debate.

The answer, of course, is that I can’t, and so I’ve decided to dive into the best books I can find on the issue of health care in the U.S. and kick off a series of posts that explore the issue. I plan to use these books as inspiration for my posts, but will welcome the participation of anyone who wants to contribute their thoughts to the series by writing something as well–just ask. And of course, as always, I’m excited to have folks share their thoughts and reactions to the posts and get a good conversation going around this critical issue.