Reading recent reviews of two books on healthcare caused me to realize that in spite of the rapidly increasing number of clinical studies that use risk analysis and neural networks to sort out the best treatment choices, there has been very little published on how to use quantitative tools like decision trees and Monte Carlo software to manage health care better. Given the recent national debates on health care reform, this is actually quite surprising.
There’s health care management, and then there’s health care management. On the macro level, decision evaluation focuses on the organization. Marian C. Jennings’s Health Care Strategy for Uncertain Times (2000) prescribes ways for corporate health care managers to reshape the ways their organizations deal with uncertainty by adopting the same quantitative techniques used in the commercial realm by enterprises like investment firms and utility companies. On the micro level, health care management focuses on you, your body. Thomas Goetz’s The Decision Tree (2010) prescribes how to apply a number of these same decision analysis techniques to your own health.
Essentially, what both books are saying is, "Look, the only certainty is uncertainty. But you have some numbers. Here are the tools to turn those numbers into plans you can reasonably rely on." These tools shouldn’t be news to you as a reader of this blog, but apparently, if the popularity of Goetz’s book and renewed attention to Jennings’s are any indication at all, the health care management arena is plenty ripe for quantitative decision support tools.