Umbrex has developed this list of the best books on the healthcare industry based on input from the management consultants in our community, our clients, and other professionals.
We believe that to serve a client effectively, it is helpful to have a deep context on the history of the client’s industry, including prominent companies, individuals, and technologies.
This list of best books on the healthcare industry is a work in progress, not a final answer, and we invite you to submit your recommendations on our Contact page.
We also invite you to check out our list of the best podcasts on the healthcare industry.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • “A tour de force . . . a comprehensive and suitably furious guide to the political landscape of American healthcare . . . persuasive, shocking.”—The New York Times
America’s Bitter Pill is Steven Brill’s acclaimed book on how the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was written, how it is being implemented, and, most important, how it is changing—and failing to change—the rampant abuses in the healthcare industry. It’s a fly-on-the-wall account of the titanic fight to pass a 961-page law aimed at fixing America’s largest, most dysfunctional industry. It’s a penetrating chronicle of how the profiteering that Brill first identified in his trailblazing Time magazine cover story continues, despite Obamacare. And it is the first complete, inside account of how President Obama persevered to push through the law, but then failed to deal with the staff incompetence and turf wars that crippled its implementation.
But by chance America’s Bitter Pill ends up being much more—because as Brill was completing this book, he had to undergo urgent open-heart surgery. Thus, this also becomes the story of how one patient who thinks he knows everything about healthcare “policy” rethinks it from a hospital gurney—and combines that insight with his brilliant reporting. The result: a surprising new vision of how we can fix American healthcare so that it stops draining the bank accounts of our families and our businesses, and the federal treasury.
Recommended by Emily EelmanRead moreRead less
Upon its first publication more than twenty years ago, And the Band Played on was quickly recognized as a masterpiece of investigative reporting.
An international bestseller, a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and made into a critically acclaimed movie, Shilts’ expose revealed why AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked during the early 80’s while the most trusted institutions ignored or denied the threat. One of the few true modern classics, it changed and framed how AIDS was discussed in the following years. Now republished in a special 20th Anniversary edition, And the Band Played On remains one of the essential books of our time.Read moreRead less
In Being Mortal, best-selling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit.
Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the very end.
Based on hundreds of interviews from inside and outside Facebook, Levy’s sweeping narrative of incredible entrepreneurial success and failure digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences.Read moreRead less
In gripping accounts of true cases, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the power and the limits of medicine, offering an unflinching view from the scalpel’s edge. Complications lays bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is―uncertain, perplexing, and profoundly human.
Complications is a 2002 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.
Recommended by Joyjit Saha ChoudhuryRead moreRead less
Charles Silver & David A. Hyman
Why is America’s health care system so expensive? Why do hospitalized patients receive bills laden with inflated charges that com out of the blue from out-of-network providers or demands for services that weren’t delivered? Why do we pay $600 for EpiPens that contain a dollar’s worth of medicine? Why is more than $1 trillion – one out of every three dollars that passes through the system – lost to fraud, wasted on services that don’t help patients, or otherwise misspent?
Overcharged answers these questions. It shows that America’s health care system, which replaces consumer choice with government control and third-party payment, is effectively designed to make health care as expensive as possible. Prices will fall, quality will improve, and medicine will become more patient-friendly only when consumers take charge and exert pressure from below. For this to happen, consumers must control the money. As Overcharged explains, when health care providers are subjected to the same competitive forces that shape other industries, they will either deliver better services more cheaply or risk being replaced by someone who will.Read moreRead less
Elizabeth A. Fenn
The astonishing, hitherto unknown truths about a disease that transformed the United States at its birth.
A horrifying epidemic of smallpox was sweeping across the Americas when the American Revolution began, and yet we know almost nothing about it. Elizabeth A. Fenn is the first historian to reveal how deeply variola affected the outcome of the war in every colony and the lives of everyone in North America.
By 1776, when military action and political ferment increased the movement of people and microbes, the epidemic worsened. Fenn’s remarkable research shows us how smallpox devastated the American troops at Québec and kept them at bay during the British occupation of Boston. Soon the disease affected the war in Virginia, where it ravaged slaves who had escaped to join the British forces. During the terrible winter at Valley Forge, General Washington had to decide if and when to attempt the risky inoculation of his troops. In 1779, while Creeks and Cherokees were dying in Georgia, smallpox broke out in Mexico City, whence it followed travelers going north, striking Santa Fe and outlying pueblos in January 1781. Simultaneously it moved up the Pacific coast and east across the plains as far as Hudson’s Bay.
The destructive, desolating power of smallpox made for a cascade of public-health crises and heartbreaking human drama. Fenn’s innovative work shows how this mega-tragedy was met and what its consequences were for America.Read moreRead less
Zeev E. Neuwirth MD
Dr. Zeev Neuwirth wrote Reframing Healthcare for leaders and organizations interested in understanding what the disrupters in healthcare are doing and, more to the point, for those who want to be the disrupters rather than the disrupted.
This book is a step-by-step guide for leadership teams that are intent on improving healthcare at an accelerated pace. It’s written for healthcare organizations that wish to thrive in a customer-centric, community-oriented, value-based healthcare system. This book provides an assessment of the market forces, mega-trends and reframes that are transforming the healthcare market, and delivers a replicable and scalable roadmap for creating better healthcare.
Recommended by Selena WalshRead moreRead less
America’s health care system is unraveling. Every day, millions of hard-working people struggle to find affordable medical treatment for themselves and their families—unable to pay for prescription drugs and regular checkups, let alone hospital visits. Some of these people end up losing money. Others end up losing something even more valuable: their health or even their lives. In this powerful work of original reportage, Jonathan Cohn travels across the United States—the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee access to medical care as a right of citizenship—to investigate why this crisis is happening and to see firsthand its impact on ordinary Americans.
The stories he brings back are tragic and infuriating. In Boston, a heart attack victim becomes a casualty of emergency room overcrowding when she is turned away from the one hospital that could treat her. In South Central L.A., a security guard loses part of his vision when he can’t find affordable treatment for his diabetes. In the middle of the prairie heartland, a retired meatpacker sells his house to pay for the medications that keep him and his aging wife alive. And, in a tiny village tucked into the Catskill mountains, a mother of three young children decides against a costly doctor’s visit—and lets a deadly cancer go undetected—because her husband’s high-tech job no longer provides health insurance.
Passionate, illuminating, and often devastating, Sick interweaves these stories with clear-eyed reporting from Washington and takes us inside the medical industry to chronicle the decline of America’s health care system—and lays bare the consequences any one of us could suffer if we don’t replace it.Read moreRead less
The New York Times bestselling author of Being Mortal and Complications reveals the surprising power of the ordinary checklist.
We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies—neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist. First introduced decades ago by the U.S. Air Force, checklists have enabled pilots to fly aircraft of mind-boggling sophistication. Now innovative checklists are being adopted in hospitals around the world, helping doctors and nurses respond to everything from flu epidemics to avalanches. Even in the immensely complex world of surgery, a simple ninety-second variant has cut the rate of fatalities by more than a third.
In riveting stories, Gawande takes us from Austria, where an emergency checklist saved a drowning victim who had spent half an hour underwater, to Michigan, where a cleanliness checklist in intensive care units virtually eliminated a type of deadly hospital infection. He explains how checklists actually work to prompt striking and immediate improvements. And he follows the checklist revolution into fields well beyond medicine, from disaster response to investment banking, skyscraper construction, and businesses of all kinds.
An intellectual adventure in which lives are lost and saved and one simple idea makes a tremendous difference, The Checklist Manifesto is essential reading for anyone working to get things right.Read moreRead less
The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a “compelling” (The Washington Post) account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.
When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.
Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his codiscovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.
The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.
Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm…Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?
After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is an “enthralling detective story” (Oprah Daily) that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.Read moreRead less
How genomics, big data, and digital technology are revolutionizing every aspect of medicine, from physical exams to drug prescriptions to organ transplants.
Mobile technology has transformed our lives, and personal genomics is revolutionizing biology. But despite the availability of technologies that can provide wireless, personalized health care at lower cost, the medical community has resisted change. In The Creative Destruction of Medicine, Eric Topol-one of the nation’s top physicians-calls for consumer activism to demand innovation and the democratization of medical care. The Creative Destruction of Medicine is the definitive account of the coming disruption of medicine, written by the field’s leading voice.Read moreRead less
Robert M. Wachter
The New York Times Science Bestseller from Robert Wachter, Modern Healthcare’s #1 Most Influential Physician-Executive in the US.
While modern medicine produces miracles, it also delivers care that is too often unsafe, unreliable, unsatisfying, and impossibly expensive. For the past few decades, technology has been touted as the cure for all of healthcare’s ills.
But medicine stubbornly resisted computerization – until now. Over the past five years, thanks largely to billions of dollars in federal incentives, healthcare has finally gone digital.
Yet once clinicians started using computers to actually deliver care, it dawned on them that something was deeply wrong. Why were doctors no longer making eye contact with their patients? How could one of America’s leading hospitals give a teenager a 39-fold overdose of a common antibiotic, despite a state-of-the-art computerized prescribing system? How could a recruiting ad for physicians tout the absence of an electronic medical record as a major selling point?
Logically enough, we’ve pinned the problems on clunky software, flawed implementations, absurd regulations, and bad karma. It was all of those things, but it was also something far more complicated. And far more interesting . . .
Written with a rare combination of compelling stories and hard-hitting analysis by one of the nation’s most thoughtful physicians, The Digital Doctor examines healthcare at the dawn of its computer age. It tackles the hard questions, from how technology is changing care at the bedside to whether government intervention has been useful or destructive. And it does so with clarity, insight, humor, and compassion. Ultimately, it is a hopeful story.
“We need to recognize that computers in healthcare don’t simply replace my doctor’s scrawl with Helvetica 12,” writes the author Dr. Robert Wachter. “Instead, they transform the work, the people who do it, and their relationships with each other and with patients. . . . Sure, we should have thought of this sooner. But it’s not too late to get it right.”
This riveting book offers the prescription for getting it right, making it essential reading for everyone – patient and provider alike – who cares about our healthcare system.Read moreRead less
Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.
The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.
Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.Read moreRead less
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a fascinating history of the gene and “a magisterial account of how human minds have laboriously, ingeniously picked apart what makes us tick” (Elle).
“Sid Mukherjee has the uncanny ability to bring together science, history, and the future in a way that is understandable and riveting, guiding us through both time and the mystery of life itself.” —Ken Burns
“Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee dazzled readers with his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies in 2010. That achievement was evidently just a warm-up for his virtuoso performance in The Gene: An Intimate History, in which he braids science, history, and memoir into an epic with all the range and biblical thunder of Paradise Lost” (The New York Times). In this biography Mukherjee brings to life the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.
“Mukherjee expresses abstract intellectual ideas through emotional stories…[and] swaddles his medical rigor with rhapsodic tenderness, surprising vulnerability, and occasional flashes of pure poetry” (The Washington Post). Throughout, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—reminds us of the questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In riveting and dramatic prose, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome.
“A fascinating and often sobering history of how humans came to understand the roles of genes in making us who we are—and what our manipulation of those genes might mean for our future” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), The Gene is the revelatory and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master. “The Gene is a book we all should read” (USA TODAY).Read moreRead less
Elisabeth Askin and Nathan Moore
The American health care system is vast, complex and confusing. Books about it shouldn’t be. The Health Care Handbook is your one-stop guide to the people, organizations and industries that make up the U.S. health care system, and the major issues the system faces today. The Handbook’s five chapters (250 pages) cover:
* Inpatient and outpatient health care and delivery systems
* The different types of health insurance and how they’re structured
* Health policy and government health care programs
* Concise summaries of 31 different health professions
* Medical research, technology, and drugs
* A clear summary of the Affordable Care Act, challenges to the law, and other reform options.
* Economic concepts and the factors that make health care so expensive
* The Pharmaceutical and Medical Device industries
Each section introduces the key facts and foundations that make the health care system work in a clear and neutral manner. The book also includes balanced analyses of current challenges and controversies in health care, including medical errors, government regulation, medical malpractice, high drug prices, and much more. Suggested Readings are included at the end of each chapter for readers who wish to learn more about specific topics.
The book is the work of two medical students, Elisabeth Askin and Nathan Moore. When Elisabeth and Nathan worked to educate themselves about the American health care system they couldn’t find a source that was comprehensive, understandable and non-biased – so they decided to write it themselves. After thousands of hours of research, writing, and consulting with dozens of national experts, the Health Care Handbook is now available. It’s rigorously researched and scrupulously unbiased yet written in a conversational and humorous tone that’s a pleasure to read and illuminates the convoluted health care system and its many components. The book is essential reading for health professionals, health professions students, and anyone who interacts with the U.S. health care system.
Featuring a foreword from Dr. William Peck, former chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges and dean of the Washington University School of Medicine.Read moreRead less
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine: The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, which are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.Read moreRead less
Clayton M. Christensen, Jerome H. Grossman M.D. & Jason Hwang M.D.
Our health care system is in critical condition. Each year, fewer Americans can afford it, fewer businesses can provide it, and fewer government programs can promise it for future generations.
We need a cure, and we need it now.
Harvard Business School’s Clayton M. Christensen—whose bestselling The Innovator’s Dilemma revolutionized the business world—presents The Innovator’s Prescription, a comprehensive analysis of the strategies that will improve health care and make it affordable.
Christensen applies the principles of disruptive innovation to the broken health care system with two pioneers in the field—Dr. Jerome Grossman and Dr. Jason Hwang. Together, they examine a range of symptoms and offer proven solutions.
YOU’LL DISCOVER HOW
The essential guide by one of America’s leading doctors to how digital technology enables all of us to take charge of our health.
A trip to the doctor is almost a guarantee of misery. You’ll make an appointment months in advance. You’ll probably wait for several hours until you hear “the doctor will see you now”-but only for fifteen minutes! Then you’ll wait even longer for lab tests, the results of which you’ll likely never see, unless they indicate further (and more invasive) tests, most of which will probably prove unnecessary (much like physicals themselves). And your bill will be astronomical.
In The Patient Will See You Now, Eric Topol, one of the nation’s top physicians, shows why medicine does not have to be that way. Instead, you could use your smartphone to get rapid test results from one drop of blood, monitor your vital signs both day and night, and use an artificially intelligent algorithm to receive a diagnosis without having to see a doctor, all at a small fraction of the cost imposed by our modern healthcare system.
The change is powered by what Topol calls medicine’s “Gutenberg moment.” Much as the printing press took learning out of the hands of a priestly class, the mobile internet is doing the same for medicine, giving us unprecedented control over our healthcare. With smartphones in hand, we are no longer beholden to an impersonal and paternalistic system in which “doctor knows best.” Medicine has been digitized, Topol argues; now it will be democratized. Computers will replace physicians for many diagnostic tasks, citizen science will give rise to citizen medicine, and enormous data sets will give us new means to attack conditions that have long been incurable. Massive, open, online medicine, where diagnostics are done by Facebook-like comparisons of medical profiles, will enable real-time, real-world research on massive populations. There’s no doubt the path forward will be complicated: the medical establishment will resist these changes, and digitized medicine inevitably raises serious issues surrounding privacy. Nevertheless, the result-better, cheaper, and more human health care-will be worth it.
Provocative and engrossing, The Patient Will See You Now is essential reading for anyone who thinks they deserve better health care. That is, for all of us.Read moreRead less
Joshua M. Sharfstein
Firefighters are taught to battle flames. Police learn to respond quickly to 911 calls.
So why are so few health officials prepared for public health crises?
The Public Health Crisis Survival Guide is here to help. Whether it’s an infectious disease outbreak, a scathing news report, or a sudden budget calamity, this book gives public health readers an honest and practical overview of what to do when things go wrong — not just to survive, but to lead and thrive in the most difficult circumstances.
With examples drawn from history, recent headlines, and the author’s own experience at the local, state, and federal levels, this book covers:
· how to recognize, manage, and communicate in a crisis
· how to pivot from managing a crisis to advocating for long-term policy change that can prevent the crisis from happening again
· how to awaken a sense of crisis on a longstanding problem to generate momentum for change
· taboo topics, including whether and how to apologize for mistakes
Written by a voice of experience, practicality, and good humor, The Public Health Crisis Survival Guide will be a source of enrichment and reassurance for the next generation of public health students and practitioners.Read moreRead less
Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize in American History, this is a landmark history of how the entire American health care system of doctors, hospitals, health plans, and government programs has evolved over the last two centuries.
“The definitive social history of the medical profession in America . . . A monumental achievement.” — H. Jack Geiger, M.D., New York Times Book ReviewRead moreRead less
Vivek H Murthy
The world seems more connected than ever, and yet even before the world went into lockdown, loneliness was at epidemic levels. But what effect is it having on us, and how can we treat it – even at a distance? Murthy’s prescient book reveals the importance of human connection, the hidden impact of loneliness on our health, and the social power of community.
When Obama appointed him Surgeon General of the United States, Dr Vivek Murthy observed the growing health crisis of isolation first-hand. In this ground-breaking book, he traces the roots of the problem, and shows how loneliness lies behind some of our greatest personal and social challenges, from anxiety and depression to addiction and violence. But he also reveals the cure. His search led him to talk to doctors, scientists, parents and community members around the world. The solutions are deceptively simple and easily applicable – and the effects are transformative. And one thing is clear: real human connection is a medical necessity if we want to stay healthy, emotionally and physically. We can all create it, and benefit from it, and it is more urgent than ever that we start now.
Recommended by Emily EelmanRead moreRead less