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POLICY: Lord save us–Reggie is back at it again!

America’s most famous business school health care maven is back it again. Reggie has a new book coming out called Who Killed HealthCare?  I for one can’t wait to see if she’s managed to sit in on Logic 101 somewhere on the other side of those hallowed Harvard halls and bring that content back to her new tome. She certainly didn’t bother to include any of that in the last two go arounds, as I suggested in my review of her last book.  I’d like to tell you what I really think, but Jamie Robinson got there first in Health Affairs letter exchange back in 1998 responding to her letter lambasting his criticism of her book:


To the Editor:
If you liked Regina Herzlinger’s letter, you will love her book. In the larger work you will find the same measured tone, the same intellectual profundity, and the same judicious use of analogy and statistics.
Caveat emptor.

James C. RobinsonUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeley, California

While I have quoted Jamie’s letter before it’s been a while since I took a look at Reggie’s letter in the same issue. It’s just too good not to share this wonderful assessment of what was happening in health care in 1998.

As my book describes, the market forces that revolutionized the once-bloated U.S. economy are now reshaping health care. Activist consumers’ demands for accountability, convenience, and control are making the system more informative and accessible. The focused-factory concepts that revived the nation’s manufacturing sector and fashioned its world-class service sector are now shaping high-quality, cost-controlled health care delivery systems. And the sort of technological innovations that have increased productivity since the Industrial Revolution are improving the quality of health care while controlling costs. Brilliant entrepreneurs are using the managerial lessons learned from successes such as SamWalton to create a better, cheaper,more accessible health care system.

I for one am reveling in the fact that we now have a better, cheaper, (Cheaper?!!) more accessible health care system than we had in 1998! I guess Reggie, who learned the first rule of forecasting–never put a number or a date in your forecast–has only just learned the second. Never actually write your forecast down or let it be recorded.

But don’t worry she has learned that one now. A couple of years back she debated Alain Enthoven, she was apparently so distressed at what he did to her that she forced the conveners of the conference to remove her words from the transcript!!

The other good news is that she’s not the only Harvard Business School professor getting thoroughly confused by the simple laws of economics. More on Clayton Christensen and Michael Porter later.

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At least Herzlinger’s first major book on healthcare had some kind of cohesiveness and actually went through an editing process.
Her last book, Consumer-Driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Players, and Policy-Makers, is a rambling mess that spans over 600 pages. There are a few decent points made in it but it is ridiculously long even for an academic tome. The editors should have been ashamed that they let such a sloppy product reach the market.
At least it makes a good bookend now on my shelf though due to its length.