Food for Thought

After much anticipation, the APAC Forum got underway this week. So far we’ve had an incredibly thought-provoking, inspiring and exciting few days as Forum participants have heard from some of the best healthcare thinkers in the world. We’ve been particularly honoured by the presence of our four Keynote speakers: Maureen Bisognano (IHI President and CEO), Don Berwick (former President and CEO of IHI), Sir Muir Gray (Chief Knowledge Officer for the National Health Service) and Dr Harry Pert (a Rotorua GP and President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners). The Forum continues today so I look forward to sharing the highlights of this event with you in next week’s post.

In the meantime, I want to give you some other food for thought. During my time as CEO, I’ve often been asked which books I’ve found useful or interesting in my career. It’s a good question – as the bookshelves in my office reveal, I love reading. Here are some of the better ones I’ve read which may interest you:

  • Better by Atul Gawande
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
  • Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

Many articles from Atul Gawande, an American surgeon and healthcare commentator, are also in the New Yorker magazine and on his website.

  •  Time to Care by Dr Robin Youngson

This book is about Robin’s experience and insights into passion and compassion, and why it’s so important in healthcare. Robin is an anaesthesiologist in Auckland who I had the great pleasure of working with on the Quality Improvement Committee.

  • Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics both by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

These books, particularly SuperFreakonomics, provide some fantastic insights into healthcare. While they are about economics, they’re still very interesting and relevant.

  • The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

As we all know one of the key things we need to be focussing on is addressing issues of inequality in health. The Spirit Level analyses the impact on society of health inequality.

  • Good to Great by Jim Collins

Jim Collins is probably the writer who’s had one of the biggest influences on my thinking as CEO. This book, along with the companion volume Built to Last, provide excellent analyses of what makes some organisations great and others not.

  • The Best Practice by Charles Kenney

This book presents a series of wonderful case studies where healthcare systems have used quality improvement techniques to hugely improve healthcare.

  • The Innovator’s Prescription by Clayton M. Christensen

Again, a great analysis of how developments in technology and healthcare are reshaping the world around us.

  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

These are fantastic books full of insights, including the case of ‘Million Dollar Murray’. Gladwell did an analysis of Murray, a homeless veteran, who was consuming $1 million of healthcare support every year because it was delivered in a fragmented way. Despite the high price tag, it didn’t have a positive impact on him. Although Gladwell muses that it might have been better to simply give Murray $1 million a year, I think the more important consideration is the one found right at the heart of Whaanau Ora:  How do we coordinate services across the sector much more effectively to deliver better value and integrate care?

  • Fads, Fallacies and Foolishness in Healthcare Management and Policy by Theodore R. Marmor

Marmor is a former Professor at the Kennedy School of Government who I heard speak at a conference in Auckland a couple of years ago. I greatly enjoyed this book. He really blows away the cobwebs and exposes how there’s a great deal of what can only be described as ‘bumpf’ in a lot of our management thinking.



Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

4 thoughts on “Food for Thought”

  1. Thank you Geraint,
    Its helpful to read about the complexities of health care and quality improvement from other points of view. I find Don Berwick’s “Escape Fire: Lessons for the future of healthcare” ( resonates for me. His honesty about the consumer’s experience and the frustrations of poorly coordinated care coupled with insights from a key thinker and strategist in the field still ring true more than ten years later.


    1. Thanks Mark.

      Some other suggestions which have come in include ‘Bad Pharma’ by Ben Goldacre and ‘What Should I Do With My Life’ by Po Bronson.

      Keep the suggestions coming!


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