Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Drug Channels Recommends: “The U.S. Healthcare Ecosystem: Payers, Providers, Producers”

Looking for a summer beach read?

I suggest The U.S. Healthcare Ecosystem: Payers, Providers, Producers, by Rob Burns.

My friend Rob of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School offers an exhaustive look into the commercial side of our complicated and confusing healthcare system. 

You will be amazed and overwhelmed by the amount of material crammed into this volume. It would be a valuable addition to the library of both industry newbies and grizzled veterans.

Read on for my overview of this valuable resource.


Dr. Burns is the real deal. He is the James Joo-Jin Kim Professor of Health Care Management at The Wharton School. He also directs the Wharton Center for Health Management and Economics, and is co-director of the Roy & Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management.

His book analyzes the U.S. healthcare system in 5 major sections, comprising 26 chapters:
  • ”Section I: Foundations of The Ecosystem” offers seven chapters, which outline the principles of healthcare delivery and financing, analyze the frameworks used to analyze healthcare systems, and discuss cost and quality.
  • ”Section II: Provider Sectors in The Ecosystem” contains five chapters, covering physicians, hospitals, ambulatory care, and post-acute care.
  • ”Section III: Payer Sectors in The Ecosystem” will be of particular interest to Drug Channels readers. It includes five chapters, focusing on employer-based health insurance, prescription drugs, Medicare, Medicaid, and the many other players in the system (PBMs, HMOs, PPOs, et al.).
  • ”Section IV: Technology Sectors in The Ecosystem” spans five chapters, focusing on manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology products, medical devices, and information technology.
  • ”Section V: The Public Sector of The Ecosystem” contains two chapters covering the structure and function of our ever-expanding U.S. healthcare bureaucracy in Washington.
Click here to see the complete chapter listing on the publisher’s website.

There are a few drawbacks to this otherwise essential book. The U.S. Healthcare Ecosystem is technically a textbook. Some material will feel a bit basic to those of us who have been around for a few years. And some depth had to be sacrificed to provide such an all-encompassing survey of the landscape in just 573 (!) pages.

Despite these minor reservations, I found the volume a great reference and refresher for putting all the pieces together. Even the familiar topics revealed new insights into the many players and business models within U.S. healthcare.

I highly recommend The U.S. Healthcare Ecosystem: Payers, Providers, Producers for anyone who wants to step back from the day-to-day and reflect on broader strategic issue. Plus, you’ll have the coolest (and smartest) reading material on your beach!

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