A panel of healthcare entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders addressed students in the Boston College Master of Healthcare Administration program, who gathered in Boston for the program's inaugural Innovation Weekend immersion event.
Photographs by Jim Johnston
A surgeon is admitted to a world-class, acute care hospital. Complications to his condition result in a seven-week stay. He recovers, and is grateful for the skilled, often compassionate care that restored him to health. From his perspective as a physician, however, he identifies problems with the experience—including communication lapses, revolving care providers, and treatment delays—that caused anxiety and frustration for him and his family.
He wonders: How could the process be better?
Responding to that question was the challenge for students who gathered this summer for Innovation Weekend, the inaugural on-site component of Boston College’s online Master of Healthcare Administration degree program, launched one year ago by the Woods College of Advancing Studies. The students’ task: to think outside the box in order to develop a creative, feasible, cost-effective plan to improve the quality and delivery of patient care.
The Innovation Weekend was the culmination of a month-long course in innovation-based healthcare strategy led by Dr. Jon Chilingerian, who also serves on the faculties of Brandeis University and Tufts School of Medicine, and is ranked among the world’s top healthcare management educators. A central feature of the BC MHA program’s design, the immersion event exposes the online students to the Boston healthcare market, and provides them with an in-person experience of the Boston College campus.
“Innovation-based strategies are a source of competitive advantage in an industry with strict regulation and limited financial resources,” said Emily Raviola, interim director of the BC MHA, the University’s first online degree program. “Our next generation of healthcare leaders must be poised to drive innovation. These healthcare leaders need to develop creative approaches that will ultimately improve care and outcomes.”
At a time when challenges to the U.S. healthcare system often make headlines, the BC MHA is responding to the growing demand for high-caliber, ethical leaders for this increasingly complex field.
The MHA program curriculum—designed with input from an industry advisory board composed of healthcare leaders from institutions including Mass. General, Atrius Health, Beth Israel Deaconess, VA Boston Healthcare, and Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, among others—ensures that the BC MHA provides a learning experience closely aligned with current industry needs. In its first year, the program has developed partnership agreements with nine healthcare institutions, including, for example, Mass. General and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and has enrolled more than 40 students representing healthcare settings ranging from Mass. General and Boston Children’s hospitals to Bayer Healthcare, and private healthcare consulting.
"By graduating highly-qualified, morally responsible, dedicated healthcare professionals from this program, we hope to improve how individuals are treated within the healthcare system.”
In addition, the BC MHA has a key differentiating factor: a strong emphasis on ethics and values. “We stress a patient-centered perspective," said Woods College Dean James P. Burns, I.V.D. "By graduating highly-qualified, morally responsible, dedicated healthcare professionals from this program, we hope to improve how individuals are treated within the healthcare system.”
The patient perspective was central to the case challenge component of the three-day Innovation Weekend, which is mandatory for students in the program.
The weekend began with a site visit to the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), where the students heard from BWH Chief Information Officer Dr. Adam Landman. From there, students headed to an evening with healthcare thought leaders and entrepreneurs that included remarks by Dr. Carl Berke, a partner at Partners Health Care Innovation Fund, and a panel discussion moderated by Chilingerian and featuring Rich Guarino, vice president of operations at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center; Dr. Michael Lee, medical director of Children’s Hospital Integrated Care Organization; Dr. Stephanie Smith, deputy director of mental health at Partners in Health and an attending psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Atrius Health physician Dr. YiDing Yu, founder/CEO of Twiage© healthcare communication company.
After a Saturday of coursework on the BC campus, the students spent the following day developing creative, strategic responses to the surgeon-turned-patient case scenario, which they presented for assessment to a panel of industry and faculty judges that included members of the Connected Health Innovation team from Partners HealthCare, which focuses on designing, developing, and testing new solutions, and scaling them through the Partners enterprise.
“Our next generation of healthcare leaders must be poised to drive innovation. These healthcare leaders need to develop creative approaches that will ultimately improve care and outcomes.”
The addition of a comprehensive immersive experience to the online coursework, and the opportunity to apply what they had learned to a complex problem, drew high marks from the students.
“It was a great experience!" said Dr. Mary P. Leahy, chief executive officer of Bon Secours Charity Health System in New York, an MHA student. "I think the class discussions can be very useful in implementing change across our organizations. Students were taught improvement science tools and tactics that should be helpful in the journey towards the quadruple aim,” she said, referring to improving population health, increasing patient satisfaction, reducing per-capita health care spending, and ensuring there is also care of the provider, such as avoiding physician burnout.
Fellow student Adil Karamali, a cardiologist and clinical faculty member at Medical College of Ohio, the weekend was “the final piece of the journey that brought together the strategic theories taught in class. Thought leaders in the industry were very motivating for students to reflect on their own ideas, large and small, and develop the next new innovation to improve health care delivery,” he said.
George Greene, a patient care technician at Middlesex Hospital in New Haven, Conn., concurred. “By using interactive learning and cognitive thinking, the Innovation Weekend allowed a student to become the teacher,” he said.
“The healthcare leaders supplied valuable insight on techniques used to overcome current challenges,” added Devin Gram, a national business development specialist at LINET Americas, a global supplier of products for patient and caregiver safety. “We developed skills and tool sets that will have an immediate impact on my career.”
The program also drew praise from industry participants.
“The Innovation Weekend showcased the undeniable commitment of the program’s faculty in introducing its students to world-class entrepreneurs, innovators, and healthcare thought leaders,” said Rachel Rosenbloom, chief operating officer at Atrius Health and a member of the BC MHA advisory board. “There is no doubt, they are already succeeding in their efforts to energize, inspire, and ignite the next generation of healthcare leaders in the spirit of transforming the way care is delivered in the future.”
“It was truly a pleasure serving on the panels,” added Lahey’s Rich Guarino, also an advisory board member. “BC has accumulated some very bright and engaging students in the MHA program. Everyone from student to panelist to professor learned something new during the discussions. This is the way education should work.”
The launch of the Boston College MHA in August 2016 was consistent with the Woods College’s ongoing approach to graduate education, which centers on developing ethics-focused leadership programs to meet industry needs in high-growth fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for medical and health services administrators and managers are projected to grow 17 percent from 2014 to 2024.
The program—which can typically be completed in two years—is personalized and blends real-time faculty-led sessions with self-paced learning to ensure maximum flexibility. Courses are offered in 6- to 8-week formats with five enrollment points throughout the year.
For more information, visit the Boston College MHA website.
—Patricia Delaney | University Communications