a week to become a health care expert
February 10, 2015 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving into the field of health care policy and I don't have a strong background in this area. I'd like some recommendations for books that will give me a broad foundation and also some that are interesting and specific to timely health issues.

I have no formal education in policy or health care, but I'll be working on some very health care focused topics for the next year. U.S.-based is important, although I will be doing evaluative work so comparative work will also be helpful. Interesting and fun books are also very welcomed..

posted by inevitability to Education (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Okay, I see you saying you want books, but also that you have a week. Like, a week from today? Anyhow, the challenge with suggesting books (even if you aren't acquiring & reading them in the next week) is that they tend to have some lag time pre-publication, and the U.S. healthcare landscape has changed a lot in the past 18 months or so.

I haven't read it, but one timely book that's been getting a lot of press is Eric Topol's The Patient Will See You Now. It might be a little hype-y, but worth reading if the ideas sound new to you. More of a blueprint for what healthcare could be like than an analysis of what it's actually like, though.

If you want a deep dive on a single disease area with some history mixed in, everyone I know who's read The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer has had great things to say.

But if I were recommending you a single resource, I'd point you away from books and online to the Commonwealth Fund's interactives & data section of their website. It's great.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:52 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A big health issue these days is medical harm and this is a good start on it: Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals: How One Doctor's Checklist Can Help Us Change Health Care from the Inside Out

The blurb: First, do no harm. Doctors, nurses, and clinicians swear by this code of conduct. Yet, medical errors are made every single day-avoidable mistakes that often cost lives. Inspired by two such mistakes, Dr. Peter Pronovost made it his personal mission to improve patient safety and make preventable deaths a thing of the past, one hospital at a time.

Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals shows how Dr. Pronovost started a revolution by creating a simple checklist that standardized a common ICU procedure. His reforms are being implemented in all fifty states and have saved hundreds of lives by cutting hospital-acquired infection rates by 70%. Atul Gawande profiled Dr. Pronovost's reforms in a New Yorker article and his bestselling book The Checklist Manifesto is based upon Dr. Pronovost's success in patient safety. But Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals is the real story: an inspiring, thought-provoking, accessible insider's narrative about how doctors and nurses are improving patient care for all Americans, today.

posted by maxg94 at 3:01 PM on February 10, 2015

Best answer: This is the textbook I read for my Intro to Health Policy and Management class. If you are really starting from scratch, this book will give you the vocabulary and framework for understanding how the heath care system works in America. It is an excellent primer, both concise and easy-to-understand. I highly recommend it.
posted by leedly at 3:25 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Atul Gawande, "Better" and "The Checklist Manifesto"

Also, it's a personal opinion but I think just about anyone working in health could learn from and be inspired by Paul Farmer's "Pathologies of Power" (not U.S. based but concepts can be applied anywhere).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:36 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Read the editorials and news sections from JAMA to get a feel for what kinds of news and what policies people have been kvetching about for the past year or two, and how they resolved. In the future, follow the voices that were more correct than others. I'd start reading older issues first and work up to the present day. You could marathon a couple a day and get caught up in a couple of weeks.

The BMJ does a better job of it, but they're focused on the NHS, but they can provide some good "foreign" perspectives on issues in the US. The CMAJ has surprisingly good editorials and letters. Overall very readable and evidently the positive results of a strong arts background throughout the journal's history.
posted by porpoise at 7:11 PM on February 10, 2015

Can you be more specific about what kind of health policy? This is super broad. I may have some suggestions but have no idea at what level or in what area you will be working.
posted by latkes at 7:52 PM on February 10, 2015

What country are you in?
posted by anirvan at 8:28 AM on February 11, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

I'm in the US.

I'll be working on a wide variety (like..very wide) of healthy policy on the federal level.
posted by inevitability at 5:41 PM on February 12, 2015

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