Part 1 of 2-part series
Master’s programs in healthcare have become a hot commodity over the past 10 years and competition for students has grown fierce as a plethora of new programs have been added to meet rising demand. One of the most established Health Executive MBA programs in the U.S. is the one offered by the University of Miami’s Patti and Allan Herbert Business School (Miami Herbert). The University has continued to expand and improve its program by continually adding to its highly regarded faculty. The University’s teaching resources offer a combination of veterans as well as fresh faces, diverse world views and a depth of experience second to none.
Dr. Steven G. Ullmann, a professor of health management and policy, has been on the university’s faculty since 1979. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics with Distinction from the University of California, Berkeley, and his master’s and a PhD degree in Economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has received training and certification in Bioethics and Advanced Bioethics from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. Dr. Ullmann is the author of over forty monographs, books, book chapters, refereed journal articles, commentaries and invited articles and abstracts. With current issues in healthcare, his expertise has been sought after for interviews, commentaries and panel discussions by local, national and global news outlets and conferences. News outlets include CBS, Fox Business News, CNN and PBS Nightly Business Reports.
Meanwhile, Alex Azar, who as the nation’s top health official supervised Operation Warp Speed to develop COVID-19 vaccines in record time, started a teaching and policy research position at the university in August of this year. A former pharmaceutical executive, seasoned government executive, and practicing attorney in addition to his recent cabinet position, Alex Azar is now an adjunct professor and senior executive in residence at Miami Herbert.
I had a chance to chat virtually with the two professors recently and gained some valuable insights into U.S. health policy. I also learned a bit about why these men choose to teach and how their work prepares healthcare leaders for the challenging times ahead. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our interview.
Q What are three essential qualities of a successful healthcare executive in a post-pandemic world?
Dr. Ullmann The qualities needed are the ability to lead in crisis while being adaptable to new methods and embracing technology. Leadership positions require business acumen. High quality outcomes and reduced variation must be achieved along with lower cost. This is the value proposition. In order for healthcare entities to prosper, resources must be deployed equitably and efficiently. There is a vital moral and ethical component as well since the health and well-being of patients is at stake.
Secretary Azar I would say first, any health care executive, must have a sense of mission for the patient. Your north star must be helping people to live longer, happier, healthier lives. Second, you must be able to lead through transition and transformation. The post-pandemic world will be different, even just in terms of care delivery with telemedicine, home healthcare, rethought professional licensure and payment restrictions. Leaders will have to skate to where the puck will be, in Wayne Gretzky speak. They cannot be so wed to past business models and frameworks and simply adopt a margin maximization model within that old paradigm, since that paradigm is shifting. Third, and related, you have to be able to see the trends in the eco-system and be able to adapt to them. Healthcare delivery and financing will change dramatically over the next 10 years. The successful healthcare executive must see those trends, anticipate those trends, and plan for them to win in the new environment.
Q Some cynical clinicians disparage administrators as ruthless cost cutters who fail to offer value to patients. What is the best way for a healthcare executive to respond to such criticism?
Dr. Ullmann The reality is that today’s care models are oriented toward quality as well as efficiencies. Moreover, healthcare management positions are increasingly occupied by physicians, nurses and other clinicians. For example, almost half of the University’s HEMBA (Health Executive MBA) students are doctors. Healthcare management is joined at the hip with patient centered care.
Secretary Azar First, lead with values and mission and live those values and mission. You cannot go wrong in healthcare if you always put the patient first. This cannot be mere words though. Yes, organizations need to be efficient and optimize spending. But it is possible to do so in ways that still create exceptional customer and employee experiences. That is the true test of leadership.
Q The media has been warning Americans that Medicare is running out of funds. Is the situation as dire as the headlines state? What can be done to improve the program’s solvency?
Secretary Azar Medicare is approaching the point where taxpayers will have to bail out the program on an ever-increasing basis from increased taxes or deficit spending. So, the issue is not so much about Medicare running out of funds, as how much money will be needed to pay Medicare obligations, where it will come from, and what are the economic impacts of those choices. Over time, Medicare must move to paying for value and improving health, rather than paying for procedures and sickness. Only this approach, where we pay for outcomes, will allow us to have the proper incentives in the system, deliver higher quality care at a lower price with better outcomes.
The Executive MBA in Health Management & Policy offered by Miami Herbert is a 21-month program that promises to transform the healthcare professional’s career. With its distinguished business faculty, close ties to UHealth and the University of Miami’s medical school, and partnerships with health care leaders worldwide, HEMBA offers a rich learning experience that positions graduates for new leadership roles and career paths across healthcare. Classes are small, usually numbering 20-30 and the program is hybrid with online and in-person learning. In-person learning is on weekends to enable students the ability to balance their current job with the academic demands of the program. The dually accredited HEMBA, currently ranked #1 by US News & World Report, attracts a wide range of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, insurance executives, healthcare finance and IT managers, medical device and pharmaceutical professionals, government administrators as well as entrepreneurs. The next class starts in January 2022.
Part 2 will appear next week.
Learn more at: https://go.miami.edu/hemba