The Hippocratic Math

By Frank Pasquale
In Quality Improvement
February 1, 2012
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pasqualeHere’s an abstract of my review of Gregg Bloche’s fascinating book, The Hippocratic Myth:

Not many policymakers or scholars can write with the authority of Gregg Bloche. Bloche is not only a law professor, but a physician, who knows his way around a hospital. Throughout The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche cements his authority in the mind of the reader by relating stories of his experience as a clinician. In each of these stories, his humane and insightful approach as psychiatrist shines through. These fluently-written passages strike one as the work of one of those rare practitioners who manages to care deeply about the patient at hand while simultaneously contextualizing the encounter in a larger framework. Thus The Hippocratic Myth should take its place among other well-received books by physicians with a sense of the big picture, including Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto and Better and Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think.

In The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche leverages this authority to advocate for a more cost sensitive health care system, where individuals frankly acknowledge that they should expect trade-offs between cost and access to certain forms of care. My concern in this review is that Bloche the caring and expert physician would have a tough time in a health care world too deeply influenced by Bloche the cost-conscious author.

Bloche’s book is one of those rare volumes that merits a careful read by scholars, classroom reading by students, and a broad popular audience.

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