It has been a monumental week, no matter what side of the political fence you sit on. This week, the President of the United States signed healthcare reform into law. Now, I am not here to debate arguments, the situation or the yet-to-be-seen outcomes. I think we can all agree that our system is not a perfect one and it’s one that could benefit from some form of redesign. So that’s what I took a look at this week, turning to a non-partisan, highly informative and tremendously fascinating book: THE HEALING OF AMERICA: THE GLOBAL QUEST FOR BETTER, CHEAPER, AND FAIRER HEALTH CARE by T.R. Reid.

Ried, a former Princeton graduate, naval officer, reporter having covered four presidential campaigns and chief of the Washington Post’s Tokyo and London bureaus is taking on the U.S. healthcare system and attempting to find solutions–by looking at the World Health Organization’s top-ranked countries for health care (we aren’t one of them). He hits the road with his bum shoulder and the knowledge that we have the highest percentage of deaths that are cureable with medical intervention and some 22,000 Americans die annually due to lack of medical coverage. How will treatment and cost differ between the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, Japan and Canada, and what best and worst practices will he identify in the process?

I found the individual country case studies fascinating. France has successfully converted to a completely digitized medical record all contained on a microchip that is affixed to a credit-card sized piece of plastic (a system, ironically enough, that was created by Americans). Preventive care is the focus of many of our European counterparts. Japanese citizens have access to over 2,000 health plans and can see a specialist immediately – often without an appointment.

Now, I am touting the pluses; but Reid goes into an objective analysis showing the successes and failures of each country’s system. He speaks to top health officials, health reformers and providers along the way creating a full picture of how other comparable nations are managing and providing health care. He breaks down a number of different models (of which the U.S. uses a little bit of every kind), myths (it’s not all socialized medicine outside of our contiguous 50 states) and realities (we are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t hold health care as a basic right for all its citizens).

Reid’s research found that American’s aren’t cold hearted. When polled, the vast majority are in favor of everyone having access to health care and think that most do. Unfortunately, there is a significant number of Americans who are uninsured, underinsured and unable to obtain health care. There is so much we can learn when looking at how others not just provide health care, but finance its delivery. There is tremendous opportunity to arm ourselves with information and knowledge to understand what we really have available and use that information to create a better, cheaper and fairer system.

I think Reid’s book is one tool to do just that.

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 288