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Healthcare gets organized

North­eastern University con­vened an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of 60 experts nation­wide from the health­care industry and acad­emia for the 15th annual Orga­ni­za­tion Theory in Health Care Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence on May 29–30.


June 4, 2014

Christina Severin, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization, an ACO in Massachusetts, answers an audience question during a panel discussion at the 15th annual Organization Theory in Health Care Association conference, held last week at Northeastern. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Health pro­fes­sionals and researchers often empha­size the impor­tance of what is known as healthcare’s “triple aim:” enhancing patient care, improving pop­u­la­tion health, and reducing costs. To ensure the suc­cess of health­care reforms that target these goals—whether they are spe­cific to a single hos­pital or as sweeping as Pres­i­dent Obama’s Afford­able Care Act—healthcare sys­tems and prac­tices must be orga­nized and man­aged effi­ciently and effectively.

To that end, North­eastern con­vened an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of 60 experts nation­wide from the health­care industry and acad­emia for the 15th annual Orga­ni­za­tion Theory in Health Care Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence on May 29–30. At the two-​​day meeting, hosted by Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness, par­tic­i­pants dis­cussed recent research find­ings and method­olog­ical break­throughs in health­care orga­ni­za­tion and man­age­ment sci­ence. Asso­ciate pro­fessor Tim­othy Hoff and pro­fessor Gary Young co-​​organized the con­fer­ence, which was pre­sented in con­junc­tion with the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Center for Health Policy and Health­care Research.

In opening remarks, Hoff iden­ti­fied sev­eral recent instances of health system reform that would ben­efit from the work of orga­ni­za­tional researchers such as improving the func­tioning of impor­tant mech­a­nisms for insur­ance pur­chasing such as Health​Care​.gov, exam­ining how best to imple­ment new pay­ment sys­tems within hos­pi­tals and physi­cian prac­tices, and how to better secure and safely share patients’ elec­tronic health records throughout the system.

“These are all cur­rent research areas that we can and should take the lead on as orga­ni­za­tional and imple­men­ta­tion experts,” Hoff said.

The con­fer­ence dove­tails with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to pur­suing use-​​inspired research in health, one of the university’s three core research themes. The other two are secu­rity and sus­tain­ability. The con­fer­ence, in part, served to advance the university’s bur­geoning rep­u­ta­tion in the health­care arena.

Research paper pre­sen­ta­tions at the con­fer­ence focused a range of topics, including the growing number of account­able care orga­ni­za­tions across the U.S., the increasing reliance on health infor­ma­tion tech­nology to deliver care, and the orga­ni­za­tional changes occur­ring in U.S. hos­pi­tals that may yield the greatest effi­cien­cies over time.

The con­fer­ence also fea­tured keynote addresses from sev­eral of the most nation­ally accom­plished health orga­ni­za­tion scholars and pro­vided an oppor­tu­nity for some of the nation’s top health ser­vices researchers to net­work, transfer knowl­edge, and brain­storm around key system prob­lems that must be solved moving forward.

Tim­othy Hoff, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of man­age­ment and orga­ni­za­tional devel­op­ment, health­care sys­tems, and health policy at North­eastern, gives intro­duc­tory remarks at the con­fer­ence. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Much of the con­ver­sa­tion on the second day of the con­fer­ence focused on account­able care orga­ni­za­tions, or ACOs, which are groups of doc­tors, health­care providers, and hos­pi­tals that come together to share finan­cial risk in taking care of patients.

During a panel dis­cus­sion of health industry exec­u­tives, par­tic­i­pants shed light on research areas that could lead to improved health­care orga­ni­za­tion and man­age­ment in this space. Christina Sev­erin, pres­i­dent and CEO of Beth Israel Dea­coness Care Orga­ni­za­tion, an ACO in Mass­a­chu­setts, said it would be ben­e­fi­cial to see more research that explores the bar­riers to patients’ accep­tance of ACOs and in sharing their per­sonal health infor­ma­tion throughout the system. Part of the con­ver­sa­tion, she said, is thinking about health­care as a shared resource.

For his part, George Moran, an exec­u­tive pro­fessor in Entrepreneurship, pointed to the value of research that helps health­care sys­tems cus­tomize and better under­stand how to create authentic patient expe­ri­ences. He noted that the nation’s health­care system is too often focused on what is being done to the patient rather than for the patient.

Moran also cited the value of applying supply chain man­age­ment research to health­care sys­tems, a strategy aimed at real­izing the full scope of a patient’s health­care beyond the physi­cian, including long-​​term care, reha­bil­i­ta­tion, tele­mon­i­toring, and other health ser­vices. “There has to be an under­standing of the con­tinuum of care for that patient,” said Moran, noting that more com­pre­hen­sive ana­lyt­ical data can iden­tify best prac­tices for an indi­vidual patient and group of patients within a spe­cific population.