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Focus on Health Care: Kristie Loescher on Health Education at McCombs

Kristie Loescher photo by Jeff Wilson

Business education may offer the prescription needed by the health care industry.

Kristie Loescher is a senior lecturer in the Department of Management at the McCombs School of Business and director for education and community engagement at the school's Health Care Initiative. Before bringing her skills to academia, Loescher worked in health care quality assurance, utilization management, and clinical research.

She recently explained the benefits of connecting the business and health care fields.

Why is health care education a focus at McCombs?

Health care is 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Some of our undergrad students will go on to get Master of Health Care Administration degrees, some will go into consulting or direct medicine. They'll need to understand the business side of the system.

Having worked in health care myself for 20 years, it's really difficult when you're the only one who knows business. We can help more people understand different aspects of the industry.

Are there any specific business skills that apply to working in the health care field? 

In management, we teach people about motivation and what makes an effective leader and team. Everybody in the health care field has to understand those things.

If you're doing any kind of budgeting, you have to know accounting and something about finance. If you're a doctor and want your hospital to buy some big piece of equipment, you need to understand time value of money. Otherwise, you're unable to have a discussion with the hospital about whether this piece of equipment is an investment that makes sense. 

How does McCombs teach students about health care?

With MBA students, I don't focus on hospitals and doctors, but more on pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and entrepreneurial opportunities because that's what most of our MBAs are interested in. They're interested in doing deals, being in consulting, and working in areas that really need MBA-level business people. 

The Business of Health Care Certificate for undergraduates is not just aimed at teaching business students about health care, but teaching other students about business. We give those students who are going into the health care industry some grounding and business principles. For the business students, we help them understand the health care industry so they can see if that's a match for their time and talents.

How many classes are required to earn a Business of Health Care Certificate?

The program is an 18-hour certificate and students take six classes. The program is mainly geared towards non-business students. They need at least to take one serious business class, in addition to the other classes.

The two quant-oriented classes include a lower division public health class, which you can take as a freshman or sophomore, then a capstone that's either on health care economics or health education program development. 

What are the three newest health care classes at McCombs?

My class — Health Care System Management — is an overview of the U.S. health care system compared to other developed countries. We also dig deep into how managing health care is different from managing other industries. I cover some aspects of motivation, management, and leadership. But most of the class covers the health care system and how it's set up.

Health Care Law and Policy is going to be taught for the first time by a new professor, Keegan Warren-Clem. She's an adjunct at the law school as well as a practicing health care lawyer. The class focuses on the different aspects of health care law: confidentiality, privacy, the right to die, some of the assisted suicide laws, and policy issues. 

The last class is Health Care Operations Management, taught by Ed Anderson of the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management. It's really a basic operations management class with health care examples.

For the MBAs, we have a new Health Care Technology Commercialization Practicum class that's being offered for the first time this semester.

What else are you working on?

For the other part of my job, community engagement, I create relationships for students from across campus — engineering and communications are the big ones — who want to do internships, practicums, and projects in Austin.

And I do health care engagement. For example, if the COO of Brackenridge Hospital needs somebody to work on a finance project, I connect them with finance students. If they want help with communications, I connect them with the right people. We see the needs and then match them up with professors and students.

How are student projects addressing health care challenges in the broader community?

One group from a Management class is conducting time studies — how much time nurses spend doing patient care versus other things — to give a hospital information on that. The hospital has been trying to make some changes to the way they assign teams so that nurses focus more on nursing. They want to double-check whether they've been successful.

In another project, students are assisting a clinic to implement electronic medical records. My students are doing data entry to help with the transition. The students are present during patient encounters so they learn a lot that way. The clinic serves the poor and if the physicians are slowed down, they see less people. Those students are getting about 20 hours of volunteer work during one semester. They're helping the clinic stay productive.

I helped set up another project for Management Lecturer Dennis Passovoy's undergraduate management students to identify barriers to discharge at Brackenridge Hospital. The students are doing interviews and following patients through the system. They're identifying issues to try to see if there are some fundamental system fixes because Brackenridge needs beds. They have people waiting in the ER and all over the hospital. What's preventing people from getting out of the hospital in a timely fashion? The students are trying to find out.

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