Healthcare Transformation Summer Reading List: 7 Thought-Provoking Recommendations

FeetHeading to the beach, lake, or forest soon? Looking for something that will stimulate your thinking and have you heading back to work with inspiration and new ideas? Interested in new ways of looking at the world and ways to improve your organization?

We’ve rounded up some books that have inspired and even entertained us on big topics like motivation, behavior change, and the challenges and solutions in healthcare today. In no particular order, here are some ideas for summer reading that will get you thinking differently. (And no, we’re not an Amazon affiliate so we don’t make money if you buy after clicking through.)

Behavioral Health, Habits, and Economics

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Richard H. Thaler  (Author), Cass R. Sunstein

calmSynopsis: Research-based with practical examples of how small ‘nudges’ can alter behavior in predictable ways. Great for both micro-changes in your own behavior and thinking about human behavior as a whole. Unfortunately, like many of the books in this section, you’ll learn from this one that we very often do not make choices that are in our best interests.

Quotable: “The nudge provided by asking people what they intend to do can be accentuated by asking them when and how they plan to do it.”

Why You Should Read It: Who doesn’t want to make better decisions about health, wealth, and happiness? 😉

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg

Synopsis: Examines human behavior by looking at scientific research on habits, and even addictions, and combines that with examples of how companies have exploited these traits to ‘help’ us create new habits that include their products. Helpful to understand your own behavior and think about how to influence others either individually or collectively.

Quotable: “Studies of people who have successfully started new exercise routines, for instance, show they are more likely to stick with a workout plan if they choose a specific cue, such as running as soon as they get home from work, and a clear reward, such as a beer or an evening of guilt-free television.”

Why You Should Read It: Clearly breaks down behaviors and gives real examples of where we have all formed habits even without knowing it. Uses case studies from the masters of habit influencing: consumer packaged goods companies, with a particularly interesting story about why Febreeze smells the way it does.

GameFrame: Using Games as a Strategy for Success

Synopsis: This book tackles game mechanics and explains them in a way to make them applicable to anything you’re doing. It explains why games are addictive, but more than that equates them to behaviors and habits that we can apply to business and life. Although game mechanics are the framework for the book, it’s really about human behavior and motivation and how games capitalize on it.

Quotable: “Seeing progress is motivation. We derive satisfaction not from the moment, but from looking back and seeing how far we’ve come.”

Why You Should Read It: If you like games, you’ll understand better what makes them so appealing. If you’re not a gamer you’ll learn that gaming techniques and intrinsic rewards are part of everyday experiences that are pleasurable or sticky.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decision

Dan Ariely

Synopsis: Master of behavioral economics Dan Ariely explains why although we think we are making rational decisions we are actually making irrational decisions and yet there is still a method to this madness. That is, you can actually predict in what circumstances people will make irrational decisions that are potentially against their best interests.

Quotable: “money, as it turns out, is the most expensive way to motivate people. Social norms are not only cheaper, but often more effective as well.”

Why You Should Read It: Unlike many other books on behavior that provide a summary of research from many sources, in this book Ariely summarizes his own research which makes his insights both deeper and funnier. For example, this Duke University professor impersonates a waiter and takes beer orders in a pub in one experiment.

Healthcare Transformation

The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Healthcare

Eric Topol, M.D.

Synopsis: Not afraid to be provocative, and pulling no punches, Dr Topol takes on the US healthcare system and what’s wrong with the way medicine is practiced today both as a system and in individual patient/provider relationships. Topol is an early evangelist of how big-data can be used to deliver personalized medicine. If you’re interested in what all the fuss is on big data, this is a great primer.

Quotable: “Many patients now trust their peers on social networks—online medical communities such as PatientsLikeMe—more than their physicians.”

Why You Should Read It: Some of the examples, especially in genomics, seem far out, but they’re closer that you can imagine.

The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution For Healthcare

Clayton Christensen, Jerome Grossman, MD, Jason Huang, MD

Synopsis: Clayton Christensen turns his “innovator’s dilemma” theory towards healthcare with the help of medical experts Dr. Jason Huang and Dr. Jerome Grossman to shine light on waste and mis-incentives in the current system and provides strong cases for how to change it.

Quotable: “There are more than 9,000 billing codes for individual procedures and units of care. But there is not a single billing code for patient adherence or improvement, or for helping patients stay well.”

Why You Should Read It: In comparing hospitals to mainframe computers the authors use an already played out technology industry scenario to foreshadow what could happen in healthcare.

Transforming Health Care: Virginia Mason Medical Center’s Pursuit of the Perfect Patient Experience

Charles Kenney

Synopsis: Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle is a leader in applying kaizen or lean manufacturing techniques to healthcare. This book chronicles how they went from near bankruptcy to becoming a model of efficiency. It provides real examples and pulls no punches on the bumps along the way.

Quotable: “Change or die”

Why You Should Read It: While the mechanics of how Virginia Mason improved processes with a lean model are fascinating, the culture and people change that had to happen for the new model is just as interesting.

If you don’t like any of these options, we’re also reading HL7/ASTM Implementation Guide for CDA® R2 -Continuity of Care Document (CCD®) Release 1 😉

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation

Leave a Comment (2) ↓


  1. Sherry Reynolds @cascadia July 29, 2014

    Great list – I would add the co-founder of Athena Health – Jonathn Bush’s new book – Where does it Hurt.

  2. Anne Weiler July 30, 2014

    Thanks Sherry. We’ll have to read it first though. 🙂

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