Porter's theories on management are the bread-and-butter of management theory but he knows little about healthcare. It would be fantastic if his elegant theories worked for this industry, but they don't.
Authors: Care value should be measured by outcomes.
Reality: This is the fundamental problem with the healthcare market is that even the end-user of cannot fully assess the outcome not to mention the medical interventions' contributions to that outcome. Diseases recur and response to medical treatment varies so greatly that doctors rarely agree on the simplest courses of treatment. Only for the most common disease states will there be consensus on intervention. The authors compare the healthcare consumer to the institutional purchaser of computer systems, people that are generally IT experts. This is akin to comparing all patients to nurses.
Authors: Competition should exist at a national level.
Reality: Patients are cured locally because sick, pregnant, working people, etc., do not want to travel to another city to get specialized care. In fact, Guy David's studies show that proximity of less than half a mile holds more sway for patients than expertise. One can't purchase healthcare over the internet. Nor can patients in the bottom 50% of wage-earners travel to another metropolitan area every month to see a field expert.
Authors: Community-based hospitals repeatedly produce better outcomes than academic institutions
Reality: Patients with difficult-to-treat medical conditions are referred to or self-refer to academic medical centers so the sample group is biased.
It's no surprise that Porter missed some of the most obvious aspects of defining the problem. The acknowledgements section of the book contains few of the renowned experts in the field. The centers of knowledge do not lie in the management departments of Harvard or Darden. The authors seem to only have corroborated their theories with individuals from other industries, second-rate scholars, and politicians.
It was frustrating to have to read 411 pages of repetitive and ignorant text. While Porter has created groundbreaking theories in management (specifically of manufacturing and less-specialized service industries) he is attempting to fit his famous theories where they do not fit.
One must admire the attempt to write a comprehensive solution to the problem of the US healthcare system. However, it's an effort fraught with laziness and little introspection. The book, however, has a decent reference section. Either the authors did not read these papers themselves or chose to ignore the most salient points in the works of the field experts. If you want to real scoop, read Halvorson, Pauly, Danzon, Fisher, or anyone else who has studied this field for more than the authors' seven years.
Halvorson's Health Care Reform Now is a far superior book because it provides actionable remedies for the health care problem. Furthermore, Halvorson has 30 years of healthcare experience (compared to Porter's 3 years when he wrote this book). In addition, Halvorson has actually implemented his suggestions. Also, he cites credible organizations and publications that actually support his suggestions (RAND, IOM) whereas Porter cites and collaborates with organizations merely willing to collaborate with him (Dartmouth and Harvard - two institutions with very little research and health care specialists).
Halvorson's book may not have as thick a list of citations as Porter's; however, it makes its point more concisely and much more effectively than Porter's.
In Porter's defense, since writing this book, he has become more knowledgeable about health care and his arguments are starting to make more sense. Redefining Healthcare proves the complexity of health care by demonstrating how difficult it is to apply basic theories of other industries to fix the health care system.
Halvorson's book along with R. Lawton Burn's The Business of Healthcare Innovation are the two most valuable books on the American health care system. You can read them both in half the time it will take you to read Redefining Healthcare and you will be twice as knowledgeable.