Business of Medicine MBA students study global healthcare through elective course

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More than two dozen physician MBA students recently got an insight into global healthcare through an international study abroad opportunity.

Nearly 30 Business of Medicine MBA students and several faculty and staff members participated this spring in the week-long course abroad to Germany and the Czech Republic. The immersive course is offered as an elective, giving Indiana University Kelley Business of Medicine students the opportunity to examine best practices and healthcare models in other countries.

The physician MBA program at Kelley Indianapolis is designed solely for practicing physicians, to help them navigate and succeed in the changing world of healthcare.

Dr. Cameual Wright was one of the Business of Medicine students to participate in both the elective course in India last year, as well as the course this year that brought students to Berlin and Prague.

Dr. Wright is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Riverview Health in Noblesville.

“This was a once in a lifetime experience. I don’t know of any other opportunity I would have had to be able to go behind the curtains so to speak and see how medicine is practiced in different healthcare settings,” said Dr. Wright. “We were able to speak to both physicians and administrators, to learn the positives about each setting, and also to see some of the challenges that they have. I’m so thankful I was able to have that opportunity. It’s something I will carry with me for my career and my life.”

“Both countries are vastly different. India is a country that struggles economically, and that certainly is appreciable in their healthcare. They have a very polarized healthcare system. Those with resources can have state of the art healthcare in private institutions that look very similar to that of the United States. Those who are more economically challenged don’t have that opportunity. They seek healthcare in public hospitals that struggle to have resources and staffing,” explained Dr. Camie Wright, of her observations from the study-abroad course.

“India does have some benefits. They tend to have quite a bit of transparency in terms of pricing. It’s easy to know how much your healthcare will cost. If you want a knee replacement for example, you know how much the surgery, the physician fees and the facility fees are ahead of time. Because of that, India has become a popular place for medical tourism,” she added.

Students not only went to hospitals and clinics in these countries, they also spoke with health policy directors and other decision-makers.

“This is something you can’t learn in a book,” said another Business of Medicine student, Dr. David Goldrath. Goldrath is the president of Comprehensive Urologic Care, SC, in Lake Barrington, Illinois. He specializes in urologic oncology and robotic surgery. “You can see how people act, how they respond to questions, and how they feel about the system. By going there and talking to people and seeing how they respond to situations and what their policies are, you can’t learn about that sitting in a classroom.”

“The healthcare in Germany is good, but I still don’t feel it’s as good as the United States. It is also very apparent that patient satisfaction is not as high of a priority as it is in the United States,” Dr. David Goldrath said as he reflected on his observations from the course. “They spend a lot of money to make sure everybody is insured, and they talk about solidarity and making sure everybody is covered. They have private health insurance and public health insurance. Public health insurance is covered, but you have to wait for things. You probably don’t get the same care as if you had private health insurance.”

“Costs are associated with this system. It’s not too different from what you would expect here, except that they’re taxed very high to make sure everybody’s covered. The biggest takeaway I got was that everybody’s covered there, but their taxes in Germany are much higher. If we chose to cover everybody we would be taxed just the same,” Goldrath added.

Throughout the course, students are required to submit an essay and make a brief presentation on a topic within the external environment of the studied countries, which could be cultural, social, political, legal or otherwise. Teams also design presentations on a medical issue in one of the two studied countries. Each student submits an individual essay analyzing a healthcare issue in one of the countries, comparing it to the United States healthcare system.

In addition to the global healthcare elective course, all physician MBA students travel to Washington D.C. to learn first-hand about healthcare reform and public policy through coursework at the Washington Campus.

“I think it’s been life-altering, to be honest with you. It’s made me look at things in such a different way than I used to,” said Goldrath, as he reflected on the 21-month Business of Medicine MBA program.

“From day one, there are things we’ve learned in school that I’ve been able to bring back to my practice,” said Wright. “A lot of those things are operationally related: ways to be more efficient and ways to engage physicians and patients. I’ve learned negotiation skills that I was recently able to use to advocate for my department. Even personally, I find myself to be more confident, more assertive, and better able to lead. I find I’m a better communicator, and I’m able to handle conflicts more efficiently and appropriately.”

“You get a clear understanding of what’s happening in medicine early on in the program. You learn to understand this a reality, and things have to change, and you realize you can participate in making those changes,” said Goldrath. “I feel like now I can really make a difference, and I have. That’s what this whole program is about: creating physician leaders, and helping physicians make a difference.”