Top 5 Healthcare Books

October 26, 2021

Dr. Eric Bricker

There are A LOT of books on healthcare. Because there are SO many books and healthcare is SO complicated, I have created a list of the Top 5 healthcare books.

These books are really ‘must reads’ for healthcare, health insurance and employee benefits professionals.
1. The Long Fix by Dr. Vivian Lee

Dr. Vivian Lee is the President of Health Platforms for Verily — the healthcare arm of Alphabet / Google.

She is the former CEO and Dean of University of Utah Health, where she instituted cost accounting at their hospital for the first time. She also started the University of Utah Health Plan, adding it to the list of other hospitals in America that run health insurance companies including Intermountain Health, UPMC and Geisinger.

Dr. Vivian Lee's book, The Long Fix, is excellent. She describes the changes in the payment for healthcare AWAY from fee-for-service that are necessary to improve quality and decrease costs.

Dr. Vivian Lee has so much credibility that she just might be able to pull off the changes in healthcare payment that she describes. However, reducing healthcare waste by 30% and decreasing healthcare's input to the US economy would result in decreasing the 20 million healthcare jobs we have today. It is the loss of these healthcare jobs that may be healthcare's biggest barrier to change.

2. Unaccountable by Dr. Marty Makary

Dr. Marty Makary is a surgeon and professor at Johns Hopkins. He is famous for promoting transparency within healthcare.

His first book Unaccountable may be even better than his most recent book The Price We Pay. If The Price We Pay is Dr. Makary's book on healthcare costs, then Unaccountable is his book on poor healthcare quality.

He writes:
  • Poor healthcare quality is variable: Good medical care is dependent on matching the right patient with the right doctor who has the right expertise for the particular disease or problem. Far too often the matching is bad.

  • Poor healthcare quality is deceptive: Dr. Makary recounts the story of senior doctors deceiving an elderly woman with ovarian cancer so that she would choose treatment, when in fact she really did NOT WANT treatment.

  • Poor healthcare quality is hidden: During his surgery residency at Georgetown, Dr. Makary tried to care for 22 trauma patients simultaneously in an ER, called his senior resident for help and was REFUSED assistance. Two of the patients died. Nothing was ever done about it.
Change starts with one individual bravely acting against popular opinion for a prolonged time — as was the case with Patty Skolnik in her fight to bring physician transparency to Colorado.

Moral of the Story: Doctors, by and large, do not have bosses. They are unaccountable and bad things happen when anyone is unaccountable.

3. The Hospital by Brian Alexander

The book The Hospital by Brian Alexander was released in March 2021. It is a fantastic exposé on the machinations of hospital administrators to maintain and grow hospital revenue and profit... even at not-for-profit hospitals.

Brian Alexander tells the true story of the rural hospital system called Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers (CHWC) in Northwestern Ohio. He describes how patients, doctors and nurses are largely used as clueless pawns on a healthcare chessboard orchestrated by the hospital's Board of Directors, CEO and executive team.

Conversely, the author tells a positive story of remarkable patient care at Health Partners of Western Ohio — a group of 16 primary care centers for the young and old, rich and poor alike. These centers provide complementary services including behavioral health, substance abuse treatment, social work and dental care.

Brian Alexander's book is an inspiration to those wishing to confront healthcare's reality and do something about it.

4. Never Pay the First Bill by Marshall Allen

Marshall Allen has a new healthcare book out called Never Pay the First Bill.

Marshall Allen was a well-respected healthcare investigative reporter for ProPublica.

In Never Pay the First Bill, Marshall Allen asserts that, when it comes to billing, insurance companies, hospitals and other healthcare providers are BULLIES. However, Allen explains how, when, where and why to fight back.

There are many practical tactics in the book, but 2 stand out:

On a hospital consent form you can hand write in that you will pay no more than 2X the Medicare rate for a service. This one tactic has stopped hospitals from billing patients whatever egregious amounts they want.

You can sue a hospital in small claims court for excessive fees. The book even has a letter template that can be mailed to the hospital's billing office and general counsel.

5. The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande

Dr. Atul Gawande is a surgeon, Harvard Medical School professor and writer for The Atlantic. Dr. Gawande is one of the most famous doctors in America. His book, The Checklist Manifesto, describes how he and his colleagues at the World Health Organization developed a 19-point surgery safety checklist that reduced surgical mortality and complications by almost 50%.

90% of US hospitals use this surgery safety checklist today. Other industries such as airlines, restaurants and construction have used checklists for decades.

Healthcare is so far behind because the forces of competition and regulation that have fostered the adoption of checklists in other industries have been insufficient in medicine. In fact, the entire discipline of industrial engineering would bring tremendous value to healthcare if competition and regulation necessitated it.

There you have it: The Top 5 healthcare books for any healthcare, health insurance or employee benefits professional. Happy reading … or audiobook listening!

Originally published Oct 26, 2021 3:00:00 PM.