Lawton R. Burns

Lawton R. Burns
  • James Joo-Jin Kim Professor, Professor of Health Care Management
  • Professor of Management

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    203 Colonial Penn Center
    3641 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: formal organizations, health care management, hospital-physician relationships, integrated health care, physician networks, physician practice management firms, strategic change, supply chain management

Links: CV, Personal Website



PhD, University of Chicago, 1981; MBA, University of Chicago, 1984; MA, University of Chicago, 1976; BA, Haverford College, 1973

Recent Consulting

Analysis of the pharmaceutical outsourcing market, IMB, 2003-04; Antitrust implications of PHOs, Federal Trade Commission, 2004; Development of integrated delivery systems, Illinois Hospital Association, 1994-97

Career and Recent Professional Awards; Teaching Awards

2003: Board of Institute of Medicine, Health Services Research Section; 2001: Arthur Anderson Distinguished Visitor, University of Cambridge (UK); 1999:Teacher of the Year, Administrative Medicine Program, School of Medicine, University of Wisconsin; 1992-93: Edwin Crosby Memorial Fellowship, Hospital Research and Educational Trust; 1990-91: Udall Fellowship, Udall Center for Public Policy; 1997: Invited Lecture Series, Catholic University of Rome, Luiss, and National Agency for Health Care Services (Rome)

Academic Positions Held

Wharton: 1994-present (Chairperson, Health Care Systems Department, 2008-present; named James Joo-Jin Kim Professor, 1999; Director, Wharton Center for Health Management and Economics, 1999-present). Previous appointments: University of Arizona; University of Chicago. Visiting appointment: University of Wisconsin

Professional Leadership 2005-2009

Editorial Board, Health Services Research, 1994-present


Lawton Robert Burns, Ph.D., MBA, is the Chair of the Health Care Management Department, the James Joo-Jin Kim Professor, a Professor of Health Care Management, and a Professor of Management in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also Director of the Wharton Center for Health Management & Economics, and Co-Director of the Roy & Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management.  He received his doctorate in Sociology and his MBA in Health Administration from the University of Chicago. Dr. Burns taught previously in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago and the College of Business Administration at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Burns has analyzed physician-hospital integration over the past 25 years. In recognition of this research, Dr. Burns was named the Edwin L. Crosby Memorial Fellow by the Hospital Research and Educational Trust in 1992. Dr. Burns has also published several papers on hospital systems and physician group practices. The last 13 years he spent studying the healthcare supply chain. He completed a book on supply chain management in the healthcare industry, The Health Care Value Chain (Jossey-Bass, 2002), and a recent analysis of alliances between imaging equipment makers and hospital systems. These studies focus on the strategic alliances and partnerships developing between pharmaceutical firms/distributors, disposable manufacturers, medical device manufacturers, group purchasing organizations, and organized delivery systems.  He has also edited The Business of Healthcare Innovation (Cambridge University Press, 2012) which analyzes the healthcare technology sectors globally: pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, and information technology. Most recently, he has served as lead editor of the 6th Edition of the major text, Healthcare Management: Organization Design & Behavior (Delmar, 2011). His latest book, India’s Healthcare Industry, was just published in 2014 (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Dr. Burns teaches courses on healthcare strategy, strategic change, strategic implementation, organization and management, managed care, and integrated delivery networks. From 1998-2002, he was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, where he taught corporate strategy to physicians. Dr. Burns also received an Investigator Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the reasons for failure in organizational change efforts by healthcare providers. He is a past member of the Grant Review Study Section for the Agency for Health Care Policy & Research, and a past board member of the Health Services Section of the Institute of Medicine. He is also a Life Fellow of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge.


Continue Reading


Assessment of GPOs: The National Survey of Materials Management & Purchasing Executives Offical Rules

  • Jeff C. Goldsmith, Lawton R. Burns, Aditi Sen, Trevor Goldsmith Integrated Delivery Networks: In Search of Benefits and Market Effects.

  • Guy David, Rich Lindrooth, Lorens Helmchen, Lawton R. Burns (2014), Do Hospitals Cross Subsidize?, Journal of Health Economics.

  • Aditi Sen, Lawton R. Burns, Michael Dandorph, Suzanne Sawyer (Draft), Physician Referral and the Potential for ACOs in Philadelphia.

    Abstract: Implementation of the Affordable Care Act has far-reaching implications for the U.S. health care delivery system. In particular, achieving the type of integrated patient care that health care reform calls for (e.g., through “accountable care organizations” or ACOs) will require major organizational changes to the health delivery system. Despite increased focus on ACOs, little is known about how these changes will be carried out, particularly in complex urban settings where there are numerous providers and payers and long-standing networks already in place. We provide the first market-wide analysis of the potential for ACO development in this type of market. We focus on primary care physician referrals to specialists, which will play a key role in coordination of care through ACOs and will likely have to be adapted to meet quality and cost objectives. We find that physicians base referrals largely on experience and personal ties and that it would take sizable incentives (10-15% of reimbursement) for physicians to change practices. Across the market, we find that though there is uncertainty about ACO implementation, stakeholders anticipate changes in provider relationships, reimbursement, and data capacity.

  • Lawton R. Burns, “India’s Healthcare Industry: A System Perspective”. In India’s Healthcare Industry: Innovation in Delivery, Financing, and Manufacturing, edited by Lawton R. Burns, (2014)

    Abstract: To request a copy of this article, contact Professor Burns at 

  • Lawton R. Burns, “India’s Healthcare Industry: An Overview of the Value Chain”. In India’s Healthcare Industry: Innovation in Delivery, Financing, and Manufacturing, edited by Lawton R. Burns, (2014)

    Abstract: To request a copy of this article, contact Professor Burns at 

  • Lawton R. Burns, Mandar Vayda, Bhuvan Srinivasan, “India’s Hospital Sector: The Journey from Public to Private Healthcare Delivery”. In India’s Healthcare Industry: Innovation in Delivery, Financing, and Manufacturing, edited by Lawton R. Burns, (2014)

    Abstract: To request a copy of this article, contact Professor Burns at 

  • Lawton R. Burns, Richa Bansal, Prashanth Jayaram, “Medical Tourism: Opportunities and Challenges”. In India’s Healthcare Industry: Innovation in Delivery, Financing, and Manufacturing, edited by Lawton R. Burns, (2014)

    Abstract: To request a copy of this article, contact Professor Burns at 

  • Lawton R. Burns, Ravi Shah, R. Carter Clement, Arunavo Roy, James Calderwood, The Aravind Eye Care System. In India’s Healthcare Industry: Innovation in Delivery, Financing, and Manufacturing, edited by Lawton R. Burns, (2014)

    Abstract: To request a copy of this article, contact Professor Burns at 

  • Aditi Sen, Jessica Pickett, Lawton R. Burns, “The Health Insurance Sector in India: History and Opportunities”. In India’s Healthcare Industry: Innovation in Delivery, Financing, and Manufacturing, edited by Lawton R. Burns, (2014), pp. 361-400

    Abstract: To request a copy of this article, contact Professor Burns at 

  • Lawton R. Burns, “The Medical Device Sector in India”. In India’s Healthcare Industry: Innovation in Delivery, Financing, and Manufacturing, edited by Lawton R. Burns, (2014)

    Abstract: To request a copy of this article, contact Professor Burns at 


Past Courses


    This introductory course takes a policy and politics angle to health care's three persistent issues - access, cost and quality. The roles of patients, physicians, hospitals, insurers, and pharmaceutical companies will be established. The interaction between the government and these different groups will also be covered. Current national health care policy initiatives and the interests of class members will steer the specific topics covered in the course. The course aims to provide skills for critical and analytical thought about the U.S. health care system and the people in it. No pass/fail. Grade only.


    This course presents an overview of the business of health and how a variety of health care organizations have gained, sustained, and lost competitive advantage amidst intense competition, widespread regulation, high interdependence, and massive technological, economic, social and political changes. Specifically, we evaluate the challenges facing health care organizations using competitive analysis, identify their past responses, and explore the current strategies they are using to manage these challenges (and emerging ones) more effectively. Students will develop generalized skills in competitive analysis and the ability to apply those skills in the specialized analysis of opportunities in producer (e.g. biopharmaceutical, medical product, information technology), purchaser (e.g. insurance), and provider (e.g. hospitals, nursing homes, physician) organizations and industry sectors. The course is organized around a number of readings, cases, presentations, and a required project.


    This course focuses on leadership and management issues in health care organizations while providing students with a practice setting to examine and develop their own management skills. Each team acts as a consultant to a local healthcare organization which has submitted a project proposal to the course. The teams define the issue and negotiate a contract with the client organization. By the end of the semester, teams present assessments and recommendations for action to their clients and share their experience with the class in a series of workshops and cross-team consultations.


    This course provides an introduction to the field of health care economics and management. Using an economic approach, the course will provide an overview of the evolution, structure and current issues in the health care ecosystem. It examines the unique features of health care services, products and markets, with a specific focus on the changing relationships between patients, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, communities, and government. In particular, the course focuses on three broad segments of the health care industry: payors, providers, and producers. NOTE: This is a required course for Wharton Graduate Health Care Management majors; it counts as an elective course for all other Wharton Graduate students. It is also open to Law School and Nursing School students with a joint Wharton Program.


    This course, co-taught with Brad Fluegel (former Chief Strategy Officer at Aetna, Anthem, and Walgreens and presently on the boards of several health care firms, including Fitbit and Premera Blue Cross), provides an overview of the challenges facing payers and providers in US healthcare as well as the strategies they use (or should use) to succeed. We cover all major aspects of the healthcare sector as seen from the perspective of payers and providers, starting from their core products and services (consumer preferences and health plan design, provider quality), the market environment they operate in (regulation and the role of public insurers, payment reforms, rising costs, and consolidation), and their strategic and operational responses (new organization models, mergers and acquisitions, and new ventures). The pedagogy is accordingly a mix of faculty lectures and talks by senior industry leaders to balance theory and practice.


    This course provides an overview of the management, economic and policy issues facing the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The course perspective is global, but with emphasis on the U.S. as the largest and most profitable market. Critical issues we will examine include: R&D intensive cost structure with regulation and rapid technological change; strategic challenges of biotech startups; pricing and promotion in a complex global marketplace where customers include governments and insurers, as well as physicians and consumers; intense and evolving M&A, joint ventures, and complex alliances; government regulation of all aspects of business including market access, pricing, promotion, and manufacturing. We use Wharton and industry experts from various disciplines to address these issues.


    HCMG 890-001: This course examines issues related to the Services Sector of thehealth care industry. For those interested in management, investing, or bankingto the health care industry, the services sector will likely be the largest and most dynamic sector within all of health care. We will study key management issues related to a number of different health care services businesses with a focus on common challenges related to reimbursement, regulatory, margin, growth, and competitive issues. We will look at a number of different businesses and subsectors that may have been unfamiliar to students prior to taking the course. We will make extensive use of outside speakers, many of whom will be true industry leaders within different sectors of the health care services industry. Speakers will address the current management issues they face in running their businesses as well as discuss the career decisions and leadership styles that enables them to reach the top of their profession. Students will be asked to develop a plan to both buyout and manage a specific health care services business of their choosing and will present their final plans to a panel of leading Health Care Private Equity investors who will evaluate their analysis. Prerequisites: HCMG 841. Health Care Management MBA majors only Senior healthcare executives and policy leaders will be engaged as guest speakers.


    Arranged with members of the Faculty of the Health Care Systems Department. For further information contact the Department office, Room 204, Colonial Penn Center, 3641 Locust Walk, 898-6861.


    This course is intended to provide entering doctoral students with information on the variety of health economics models, methods, topics, and publication outlets valued and used by faculty in the HCMG doctoral program and outside of it. The course has two main parts: the first, to acquaint students with theoretical modeling tools used frequently by health economists. This part of the course involves a number of lectures coupled with students' presentations from the health economics, management and operations research community at Penn on a research method or strategy they have found helpful and they think is important for all doctoral students to know.


    This advanced PhD seminar will explore topics in the industrial organization of health care and structural econometric approaches in health economics. The focus in this course is the development of advanced econometric tools. The (tentative) topics covered include health insurance and hospital demand estimation, the analysis of hospital competition, insurer competition, quality competition, technology adoption, models of entry and exit and dynamic oligopoly games. The readings will focus on recent advances in economics. Students are required to present recent research from the field and write an empirical research paper that broadly based on the topics covered in the course. With the permission of the instructor, the seminar is open to doctoral students from departments other than Health Care Management.


    During the last decade it has become clear that in the global economy, firms must constantly adapt to changing technological, competitive, demographic and other environmental conditions in order to survive and prosper. The importance of acquiring the knowledge and tools for changing organizations successfully cannot be overemphasized (particularly for students headed for consulting and general management careers, although not limited to them). This course focuses on specific concepts, theories and tools that can guide executives entrusted with the task of leading organizational change to successful execution. Among other topics, the course will focus on various change strategies such as leading change, managing cultural change, and mergersor acquisitions, corporate transformation, managing growth, building the customer centric organization, business process outsourcing both from client and provider perspectives, and managing radical organizational change. The perspective of the course is integrative and the focus is on successful execution.


    Much more is known about strategy formulation than its implementation, yet valid, sensible strategies often fail because of problems on the implementation side. This course provides you with tools to turn good strategy into successful reality. It covers the choices, structure, and conditions that enable the successful attainment of strategic objectives. Students learn from rigorous academic research on successful implementation, as well as a series of seasoned business leaders who will visit to share their own experience from the front lines.


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Latest Research

Jeff C. Goldsmith, Lawton R. Burns, Aditi Sen, Trevor Goldsmith Integrated Delivery Networks: In Search of Benefits and Market Effects.
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In the News

Culture Clash: A Lesson from the Theranos Case

As the trial against Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes continues in federal court, Wharton’s Lawton R. Burns examines the prickly relationship between technology and health care.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 9/13/2021
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