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Reviews of Tracking Medicine

James S. Goodwin
American Journal of Epidemiology, May 20, 2011
“The title of this book hints at a personal history: ‘researcher’s quest... ’ Yet, John Wennberg has been the dominant force over several decades in studies to describe and understand American medicine. Thus, this personal narrative is also an excellent summary of our current understanding of US health care.”Read full review, follow-up letter to the editor, and response.

Jonathan Mayer
University of Washington, March 15, 2011
“There is tremendous unexplained variation in rates of surgical procedures from hospital catchment area to hospital catchment area, and region to region that cannot be explained by epidemiologic factors. For example, colleagues and I discovered in 1992 (see Spine, 1992) that the 15 fold difference in surgical procedures on the spine in Washington State was inexplicable by almost all population and diagnostic factors. These sorts of studies were first called ‘small area analyses’ by John Wennberg, MD, of Dartmouth Medical School - a specialist in internal medicine who then combined this with epidemiology and geography and who has a profound impact on understanding our heath care system - and those of other countries.”Read full review

Harlan Krumholz
Science, March 4, 2011
“Once in a generation or so, someone makes a fundamental discovery that, although obvious in retrospect, was met by successive stages of disinterest, resistance, and finally acceptance as a contribution that forever changed our view of the world. In medicine, through his discovery and thorough explication of ubiquitous small area variation, John Wennberg became one such individual.” Read full review

David Mechanic
Health Affairs, February 2011
“In Tracking Medicine,Wennberg gives us both an intellectual biography and a well-told narrative of how this important body of research advanced throughout the years. The research was built on data resources and theoretical ideas that encouraged testing explanations. Wennberg describes the way in which his ideas evolved and how he systematically collected data to test them, so he could bring his skeptical medical colleagues around to his way of thinking.”Read full review

Arnold Relman
New York Review of Books, September 30, 2010
“Wennberg’s painstaking documention of overuse as cause of excessive costs greatly helps our understanding of the US health care problem because it shows that costs can be controlled by eliminating unnecessary care, without rationing medically appropriate services. The clear implication of his work is that we could afford good care for all if we made our medical system more efficient and less wasteful.” Read full review

Donald M. Berwick, M.D., M.P.P.
Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
“Jack Wennberg’s career-long contributions to understanding patterns of health care are at the pinnacle of modern health services research – there are none better technically and none more important to our future. In this masterful book he puts it all together, tracing the sweeping journey of his discoveries and the relentless logic of his conclusions. His account instantly becomes mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand the trajectory of health delivery research in our time.”

Senator George J. Mitchell
Special Envoy for Middle East Peace
“For more than 30 years, Jack Wennberg has provided the vision and data to identify and address the fundamental problems inherent in variations in health care practice. This timely book synthesizes an important body of knowledge and makes recommendations for reshaping the organization and delivery of health care. Making these changes will not be easy, but the book should be required reading for policymakers, clinicians, and all those working to redesign our health care system to provide high quality, affordable care for all Americans.”

Jim Yong Kim, M.D., M.P.H.
President, Dartmouth College
“New forms of knowledge with the power to reshape a major field of human practice emerge once in a generation. This book presents such a body of knowledge. It describes how, as a young physician and epidemiologist, Jack Wennberg first detected and worked to explain striking variations in the delivery of health care services among local areas in the United States. It shows how, over time, Wennberg and his colleagues harnessed these initial discoveries to build a scientific field for the study of practice variation and comparative effectiveness in health care. And it applies findings from this field to set an agenda to save our nation’s beleaguered health system.”

Ron Suskind
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism
“Jack Wennberg is a modern day Copernicus, a man whose unearthing of inconvenient truths has stood the known world on its head. Now, in this extraordinary, lucid work, he shows that by placing hard evidence – and the patient’s actual well being – at the center of the health care universe, American medicine might someday restore its sacred oaths. This is not just an important book, an urgent book. It’s one that could literally save millions of lives.”

Sir Muir Gray, CBE
Consultant in Public Health
“In Tracking Medicine we now have the full story of Jack Wennberg’s research set out in all its glorious logic, leading us into the world of uncertainty but making me very certain about some steps that all health services have to take, namely to put the patient at the center of care and to focus on patient decision making as a central responsibility of healthcare management.”

Denis A Cortese, M.D.
Emeritus President and CEO of the Mayo Clinic Foundation; Professor and Director of the Health Care and Delivery Program, Arizona State University
“Jack Wennberg and his colleagues show that the delivery system is the most toxic and expensive component of health care in the USA today. Their work, over many years, has shown that there are providers, medical groups, hospitals, cities, regions, and states that are able to get better outcomes at lower costs over time. In other words, they have shown that high value care is possible in the USA, just at a time when the USA needs it most.”

Tracking Medicine: A Researcher's Quest to Understand Health Care