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Why Everybody Should Read “Why Nobody Believes the Numbers”

Back in the early 1900s, Albert Einstein had a problem. Sophisticated instruments were unexpectedly showing that the measured speed of light was the same if the source or the observer were moving or stationary.  In other words, if one were moving away from a bullet, it should look (to the observer) that the bullet had slowed down. Light’s refusal to conform to the prevailing common sense about how the universe should work ultimately forced Einstein in 1905 to conclude that, in order for the speed of light to be constant, time and mass had to be elastic. This ushered in a new field of relativity mathematics that is still being used to plumb the known universe’s Music of the Spheres.

While the controversies surrounding the effectiveness of “population health management” (PHM) are quite minor compared to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the comparison is still instructive. The similar mismatch between what is assumed, what is observed and how to mathematically describe the ultimate truth also underlies Al Lewis’ book, Why Nobody Believes the Numbers.  In other words, we assume care management-based patient coaching always yields savings, increasingly sophisticated observations often fail to show it and, as a result, we need new mathematics to reconcile what we assume and what we observe.

Interestingly, author Al Lewis of the Disease Management Purchasing Consortium never doubts the speed of light or that high quality PHM ultimately can save money. While PHM vendors may interpret his long history of skepticism as some sort of shakedown, Al’s passion is clearly evident: Why Nobody Believes the Numbers is ultimately driven by a search for the truth. For that he deserves a lot of credit.

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