Pioneering Innovation in Healthcare Management

In order to prepare the men and women shaping the future of healthcare, business schools must collaborate with academics and practitioners in the health sciences.
The men and women shaping the future of healthcare in the United States and beyond must be experts not just in medicine but also in business, for the best outcomes for patients and health systems lie at the intersection of these disciplines.

Business schools can provide this education; however, we cannot do it alone. It is imperative that we collaborate with academic colleagues and practitioners in the health sciences. Often, these potential partners are already on our campuses, possibly in different units. We simply have to work harder at building bridges to take full advantage of the expertise across different domains.

Acting on the Imperative for Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) recently created two health management-focused graduate degree programs with Pitt’s schools of pharmacy and public health, and we have two additional programs planned with Pitt’s schools of social work and nursing, as well as a new undergraduate double-degree program planned in health services.

This past April, we celebrated the launch of our most ambitious program yet, one that has been years in the making. The new Katz-UPMC Executive MBA in Healthcare (EMBA-H) merges best strategies and practices from the business and medical fields. This program immerses healthcare professionals in the core principles of business management so they can make better decisions for their facilities, their staff, and their patients at a time when big data, supply chain optimization, and financial modeling are changing how every field—including healthcare—performs.

The EMBA-H unites the innovative professors of the Katz Graduate School of Business with the experienced medical professionals of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to serve forward-thinking business leaders and healthcare visionaries who see positive patient outcomes as the new bottom line.

Our inaugural cohort has a balanced mix of physicians and non-physicians, which gives us diverse healthcare viewpoints. The candidates, who have a combined average of 15 years of experience in their fields, include a trauma surgeon, medical director, health insurance account executive, vice president of business development, clinical director of operating rooms, clinical trial manager for medical devices, and certified nurse practitioner.

Through a mix of in-class and distance learning, candidates complete coursework in leadership development, accounting and statistical analysis, supply chain management, healthcare policy, and risk management. All the learning materials in the curriculum are viewed against the practical and field-specific challenges of managing a healthcare system.

Building on Regional Strengths for Global Impact

Our creation of this program is driven by the belief that the Pittsburgh region is the ideal environment for our health-management initiatives to take root. Western Pennsylvania has a healthy and vibrant ecosystem for the health sciences, with a well-established “eds and meds” economy and a host of nationally renowned hospitals and research facilities. Our region’s support for innovation and entrepreneurship is reflected in all facets of these health systems.

For the past decade, Katz has worked with UPMC on improving health management education. Leading our efforts is Professor Carrie Leana, now the EMBA-H academic director and also director of the Katz Center for Healthcare Management. Under her guidance, this past year, the ninth class of UPMC doctors completed the Marshall W. Webster Physician Leadership Program, which provides a “mini-MBA” through lessons in the core business areas. UPMC also began an International Healthcare Fellows program, in partnership with Katz, to provide clinical and business training to doctors from Asia. To date, two cohorts have successfully completed this program.

Using Synergies to Shape Systematic Change

UPMC has proven to be an ideally collaborative partner and is closely involved in the development and direction of the EMBA-H program. UPMC is an industry leader with groundbreaking research and health care delivery. It has adopted cutting-edge processes to streamline operations and improve patient care. Consequently, Katz relies heavily on UPMC to convey the characteristics and challenges that make the business of healthcare different from traditional industries: healthcare is highly complex, is resistant to standardization, and can be influenced by changing government regulations and new technologies and medical discoveries. Healthcare also is highly dependent on human capital at all stages of the delivery of care. These insights are brought to the classroom by senior UPMC executives who partner with Katz faculty to create curricula that provide real-world lessons for the program’s candidates.

My hope is that our efforts in the EMBA-H—to create a world-changing educational program between two world-class institutions—will provide other regions and other schools with a blueprint for creating their own innovative programs in health management. Only by uniting our best and brightest minds in medicine and in business will we be able to train tomorrow’s healthcare professionals to lead our facilities to improved efficiencies and our patients to ever-better results.

Arjang A. Assad is the Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean of the University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration in Pennsylvania.