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Story 11: Learning to Lead

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Harvard Community Health Plan (1970)

Written by Mike Spock

In the 1970s, the world of medicine began to think of ways to keep the cost of medical care within reason without just surrendering to the insurance industry or compromising the quality of care but still taking advantage of the advances in medical research. One of the most interesting directions came from academic medicine: medical schools and teaching hospitals, where most of the faculty were on salaries rather than working as independent entrepreneurs. One of these experiments was Boston's Harvard Community Health Plan, a pioneering health maintenance organization (HMO). As suggested by its name, it was a powerful player in the medical community. As we seemed to be aware of most new and progressive trends in society, we took notice of the arrival of Harvard Community Health and asked to be part of their experiment. In fact, staff member Mary Babine, in her Boston Stories interview, noted that we might have been the very first organization to become part of the new HMO: our personal membership cards bore numbers that were all under one hundred. Even when we were in our organizational infancy, the museum didn't miss many bets.

Next: Part II: 1970-1971: The Director's Project: Learning to Lead