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From The CriticsReviewer: Malathi Srinivasan, MD(University of California Davis)
Description: The authors have written a concise, clear primer on healthcare economics. The book develops major themes in descriptive, explanatory, and evaluative economics and can be easily understood by the noneconomist. It highlights the objectives to be learned at the beginning of each chapter, reviews the material, and provides a series of questions at the end of each chapter to reinforce key points.
Purpose: This introductory book provides an economic approach to understanding healthcare issues affecting our population, using scarcity as a driver of healthcare needs. It focuses on how to do economics, and in thinking about healthcare economics in a systematic fashion. This book, now in its fifth edition, is a much-needed update in the instruction of healthcare economics for the noneconomist. It provides physicians and other healthcare providers a straightforward method of framing the complex economic issues surrounding healthcare delivery and healthcare outcomes.
Audience: This is a primer. Thus, the audience includes any noneconomist who is interested in understanding economic principles. As a physician and a health services researcher, I personally found the book useful, and logically laid out. It should be easy to incorporate elements of this book into a curriculum for medical students and residents. The authors did not provide any biographical data, other than their institutional affiliation — two pages on author identification would be useful in subsequent editions. However, these authors are known in the field of healthcare economics and are credible.
Features: The book covers three major domains of healthcare economics: descriptive, explanatory and evaluative methods. Much like the health services research models with input —> process —> output, this framework is recognizable and easy to follow. This book is useful for several reasons. It emphasizes an understanding of the concept for each section without excessive detail. Each chapter follows the classical educational technique of "foretelling, telling, then recapping." Learning objectives are clearly laid out. Questions/exercises at the end of the chapter track with the content of the chapter, and are illustrative. References are relevant. The diagrams are simple and there is minimal use of equations. This lack of mathematics/equations may offend economic purists, but the noneconomist is still able to see the relationships described based on the text description. The economic principles are described with clear examples, and a progressive disclosure method is used to build up increasingly complex models. There is always a tension in these introductory books between breadth and depth. However, for its stated purposes, there are no major shortcomings of this book.
Assessment: This book fills a unique niche as a healthcare economics primer for noneconomists. It is a standard textbook used in many institutions. This book is more readable than other, more technical books in the area, yet it does not oversimplify the material, nor does it talk down to the audience.