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Digital Injection Into MBA Programs To Train Healthcare Executives

Insatiable demand for digital talent in healthcare fuels rise of specialist training programs for health executives.

Sun Jul 19 2015

The feverish demand for talent in healthcare is fuelling the rise of specialist training programs for health executives.

Technological change has made it clear there is a need for managers to hone digital skills. Healthcare organizations’ strategies are increasingly being shaped by tech — which could reduce patient risk, increase efficiency and slash costs.

From transitioning to electronic medical records to mining the vast quantities of data generated by remote patient monitoring devices, healthcare leaders will need to keep pace with digital innovation.

Curricula, says Kimberly MacPherson, associate director of health management at California’s Haas School of Business, is already changing. For example, healthcare sessions at Hass School on technology are running as part of MBA electives, and cover areas including tech trends in the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals sectors.

“So much in healthcare revolves around data and information,” Kimberly says. “Much of the innovation is reliant on IT and there are huge implementations of EHRs and other core systems, in addition to the digital health explosion.”

At a senior level, healthcare executives will need wrap their heads around mobile apps, wearable tech, sensors and data analytics. The sheer scale of innovation is proving a challenge.

“Healthcare managers and executives understand that IT needs to play a role in their overall healthcare strategy,” says Professor Jeremy Petranka at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, who researches IT strategy. “But what that role should be is still being defined.”

Fuqua’s Health Sector Management program is one of the most established among top US schools including George Washington University, Michigan Ross, Vanderbilt Owen and Rice Jones.

Yet it too must change as technology comes into focus, Jeremy agrees. He says IT is ever-more pervasive throughout the healthcare system. “Students coming out of healthcare programs that are blind to this tool will be at a disadvantage.”

Fred Hagigi, professor in technology management and director of Global Health Initiatives at UCLA Anderson School of Management, says the effect of IT on healthcare is a major area of focus.

He highlights the free flow of data from an increasing number of consumer devices, and the disruptive new players that are harnessing the power of IT: “This has a substantial impact on healthcare.”

Meanwhile, in Europe at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, future healthcare leaders are injecting innovation management and technological progress into their study.

“Healthcare managers are very aware of these developments and observe them closely,” says Dr Rainer Sibbel, at Frankfurt’s Institute for International Health Management. “But, from a managerial point of view, it is a very difficult and challenging topic.” To calculate the cost of investment in tech is easy, but to realize the potential is problematic, he says.

Perhaps the biggest shift in the education and training of health workers is the increasing focus on big data. Machines and devices in hospitals and patients’ homes are transmitting more data than ever before.

“Big data will become a very powerful tool,” says Frankfurt’s Rainer, which has the potential to revolutionize aspects of patient care and clinical trials.

Analytics has become a job description for a swelling number of healthcare management roles.

“We are seeing an improvement on the number of graduates with specific digital experience who are hired by pharmaceutical companies,” says Elisa Zagami, head of career development at MIP Politecnico di Milano, a top Italian business school. Eli Lilly, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer and Bayer are all recruiting, she says.