The U.S. healthcare industry was valued at $808 billion in 2021, with the global healthcare industry worth $12 trillion. This reality makes the healthcare industry as much a business as a sector meant to serve the larger population. In recent years, the growth of the pharmaceutical industry, biomedical innovation and biotechnology have put the healthcare industry at the forefront of the management world, and some of the courses offered through the Institute’s Scheller College of Business reflect this intersection.
Professor of the Practice Bill Todd leads the Healthcare Management Practicum (MGT 4833) course, a three-credit hour class focused on solving real-world problems in the healthcare industry through a management lens. Recently, students in the course received recognition for collaborating with Piedmont Hospital to assess the viability of a new ambulatory surgery center (ASC).
According to Todd, the practicum is, “a three-credit hour lab course, meaning most of the work is outside of the one-hour classroom time each week. Students are invited based on prior classes I teach and referrals from faculty and students. Permits are required.”
The students in the practicum are usually selected to receive an invite based on their performance in Todd’s other class, Management in the Healthcare Sector (MGT 3662). While the classroom instruction only occurs for an hour each week, the course is classified as a lab course due to the “lab” portion being in-person observations and interviews in local hospitals and clinics. ASCs are a novel concept; these centers provide patients with same-day surgical care, creating outpatient services highlighting diagnostic and preventative procedures. These facilities differ from conventional hospitals in that their services are often low-cost and do not require hospital admission. Usually patients seek the services offered by ASC if they have already met with a healthcare provider who outlined surgery as their primary treatment plan.
Since ASCs are usually affiliated with independent companies and organizations, they can cause a hospital network to lose patients. For instance, a patient may see their physician and solidify the need to have a common ambulatory surgery like a tonsillectomy.
However, due to the low cost and ease offered by local ASCs in the area, the patients may elect not to have their surgery done at the hospital where they saw the physician.
This loss in patients can cause a decrease of revenue for conventional hospitals, creating a precarious financial environment amidst a backdrop of hospital consolidation and closures.
Large hospital networks such as Emory Healthcare have created ASCs affiliated with their name as a means to tackle the problem. Conversely, Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta is one such facility facing challenges due to the proliferation of ASCs. The chief operating officer, a Tech alumnus who is still involved with the Scheller College of Business, approached Todd to include the subject in his practicum course.
Todd has “significantly advanced Healthcare Management at his alma mater. As a distinguished faculty member, he crafted three robust Healthcare Management courses, demonstrating his commitment to academic enhancement. He consistently imparts Healthcare Sector Management knowledge, creating four original case studies each semester,” according to his profile.
To tackle Piedmont Hospital’s problem, Todd put together a team of 11 undergraduate students from his practicum course and tasked them with creating a solution to Piedmont’s patient leakage due to the growing presence of ASCs.
At the end of the project, the student team presented to Piedmont’s chief operating officer and other C-suite executives and explained the need for the hospital to create its own surgery center to retain patients and grow profits.
The presentation included the number of surgical centers, the locations and the recommended services, along with the team suggesting that Piedmont should have a hybrid model that includes an office-based lab and an ASC.
For students like Aubrey DeAugustinis, fourth-year BA, being a part of the student team was a transformational experience for her.
“This class was such an awesome way to work with students in a lot of different disciplines; throughout the semester we really bonded as a team and were able to cater to each other’s strengths. While ASCs are still relatively new to the healthcare world, this project gave a lot of insight into the regulatory, efficiency and patient care concerns felt by all hospitals,” DeAugustinis said.
DeAugustinis went on to explain how she is currently in the second iteration of the practicum course and “would love to be able to further apply these skills to our Spring 2024 project, where we are working with Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education to expand clinical trial access and awareness to underserved populations and in rural areas of Georgia.”
As for how he hopes to expand the reach of his healthcare management courses in the coming years, Todd said, “We are expanding other clients beyond Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Piedmont. This semester we are working with Grady Hospital and the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education.”
While students in Todd’s class already come from a plethora of backgrounds, resulting in an interdisciplinary environment for student dialogue, Todd and his students hope to see Tech expand course offerings at the intersection of healthcare and management for more hands-on opportunities.
“Many of us across campus are working on collaborative programs to address opportunities, including possibly a Healthcare Minor or Certificate. My courses already qualify for the Leadership Minor, Serve-Learn-Sustain and strategy electives within Scheller. New Dean [Anuj] Mehrotra is evaluating opportunities to serve almost a fifth of the U.S. economy, both serving those organizations and preparing our students for rich careers in the healthcare sector,” Todd said.
DeAugustinis echoed Todd’s sentiments about the expansion of such classes at Scheller and said, “I would love to see more classes offered at the intersection of business and healthcare going forward. The healthcare industry is growing rapidly, and there are so many opportunities for students to further innovate patient care as we know it.”