Health care program to join business school

Tom Lopez

The transfer of the University’s program in Healthcare Administration to the Carlson School of Management reflects a national trend to try and keep up with the increasingly intricate world of health care.
“It’s reflective of changes in the industry of health care administration as a business,” said Martha Douglas, Carlson’s director of communications. “As health care becomes much more of a big business enterprise, many in the (Masters of Health Care Administration) program were in favor of a degree program move, partly because we have more of a focus on managerial training, and because we have strong links to the business community.”
The switch from the School of Public Health, announced on Jan. 8, was initiated by alumni of the administrative program. The program still includes instruction in health care services, but significant changes will likely take place when the University converts from quarters to semesters by 1999.
“When we convert to semesters, it will look like we grew up in Carlson rather than just moved in,” said George O. Johnson, chairman of the Department of Healthcare Management with Carlson.
The program, which has about 50 students, is the eighth degree program within Carlson. New areas of instruction will probably include executive education for physicians and health care marketing.
Douglas said many health care organizations are combining with the business sector as a result of the changing economic realities facing health care organizations.
“The nature of health care management is becoming a larger endeavor,” Douglas said. “Management of health care organizations has become very complex. Carlson is used to addressing management problems in very complex organizations.”
Douglas said the Association of University Programs in Health Administration, which accredits health administration programs, reports that over half of such programs are run by business schools. She pointed out that the University’s health care administration program is the fourth of the top five programs in the nation to be part of its institution’s business school. “This is definitely a national trend,” she said.
Edith Leyasmeyer, the dean of the School of Public Health, said she sees this trend as a move toward an economics-based emphasis in health care.
She said Carlson stresses “financial considerations and managerial effectiveness,” while the School of Public Health is focused more on the needs of the community. Leyasmeyer added that despite losing the health care administration, the school will continue to offer a health care curriculum.
“The School of Public Health will maintain and explore health administration programs which are focused on the public sector,” she said.
Leyasmeyer pointed to the differences between the two programs, saying that the School of Public Health is concerned more with the access and availability of health care in communities, as opposed to financial efficiency.
“Students in the School of Public Health are by and large working in more of the public, non-profit sectors,” she said. “There is a drive in the School of Public Health to do good and to help the community stay healthy, because the students care.”
She added that the School of Public Health was not opposed to the move. “I think the school has tried to maintain a supportive and neutral position during the process of the move,” Leyasmeyer said.
Johnson said the move reflected an evolution in health care, and that Carlson can offer the management training that such an evolution requires.
“The challenge today is to provide all the care that the patient needs under a single umbrella,” he said. “The hope is that with this kind of service, the patient will get care because the system will be integrated. That requires a tremendous amount of organization and coordination.”
Johnson added that a growing movement toward consolidation also necessitated the switch. “The health care community used to be a cottage industry, and now it’s becoming a very large organization.”
Although it switched over this quarter, no major changes have been made in the program so far. “The changes from the first or second year are going to be modest,” he said. “We want to make sure we make purposeful changes.”
Johnson added that he had received much positive feedback concerning the move and that his colleagues at other institutions had been “very supportive and enthusiastic.”
Douglas said that the switch opens the door to further cooperation between the health care administration and Carlson. “It’s a good match,” she said.