Plenary Speaker

The ReThink Health Model: Supporting Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration in Local Communities

Gary Hirsch
Creator of Learning Environments

Gary HirschGary Hirsch has consulted with organizations on management strategy and organizational change for the past 45 years. He specializes in applying system dynamics and systems thinking and using these techniques to create simulation-based learning environments.

Health care has been a consistent thread in his work and has included strategy development and program planning for health care organizations in the US, the Netherlands, Pakistan, East Africa, and Vietnam. His work has included modeling community health status and delivery systems; health manpower policies; complex policy problems such as heroin addiction, organ donation, and provision of children’s protective services; emergency preparedness; contagious diseases and the control of epidemics; the prevalence, treatment, and cost of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, HIV-AIDS, and cardiovascular disease; and dental caries in young children.

Mr. Hirsch’s work on simulation-based learning environments includes several in health care. Currently, he is involved in a project called ReThink Health Dynamics, creating simulators to help local leaders transform their communities’ health and health care systems. Previously, he worked on a simulator called HealthBound for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that helps people understand the dynamics of health reform in the US. Another simulator he developed helps people understand how to manage micro-credit institutions more effectively.

Hirsch received SB and SM degrees from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He is the author of three books and numerous journal articles and conference presentations. He is a founding member of the System Dynamics Society’s Health Policy Special Interest Group and a member of teams that have won awards for applied systems thinking and applications of system dynamics. As a volunteer in his own community, he is president of the Metrowest Free Medical Program, a provider of health care to people without health insurance.


Community health systems are complex, made up of both the formal health care delivery systems and the various other factors that affect the population’s health. Stakeholders in the system—patients and their families, providers, employers, insurers, and advocacy groups—can only see parts of the system and view it from their different perspectives. These differences make it difficult to arrive at agreement about what needs to be done to reform those local health systems and achieve the goals of better health and health care at lower cost. The ReThink Health Model has provided a number of communities with the ability to see the whole system at once, a framework for asking “What if?” questions about potential strategies for local health reform, and a basis for coming to agreement about high-leverage strategies to be implemented.

The ReThink Health Model is a sophisticated, empirically-based, analytical tool that simulates the behavior of a regional health system and can be customized with data reflecting the unique characteristics of an individual region. It has been used by scores of organizations and regions across the country to align thinking, develop sound strategies, and catalyze action. It is also used in more than a dozen academic programs at major colleges and universities. The model has an interface that permits users hands-on access to the model, and supports them as they consider many alternatives for improving local health system performance and develop a shared understanding of what works. This talk describes the model, how it was developed in collaboration with several communities, and how strategy labs using the model have supported collaboration and helped to achieve consensus about local health reform.

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