“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
With that opening line in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy began his exploration of the marriages and relationships in nineteenth-century Russia. As remote as that era may seem today, Tolstoy’s initial observation remains relevant in other contexts where success cannot be guaranteed, and failure can occur in multiple ways. This “Anna Karenina Principle” has been described in evolutionary biology, marketing research, and efforts to eliminate gender disparity in science and technology. The Anna Karenina Principle applies to health care, too, and has direct implications for how health care organizations should think about the patient experience.
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