Healthcare has evolved into a complex ecosystem that intertwines medical expertise with intricate financial, operational and strategic considerations. As healthcare continues to grapple with a myriad of challenges, from shifting regulations to the rapid integration of cutting-edge technologies, the need for leaders with a deep understanding of both healthcare and business acumen is clear.
Enter specialized MBA programs in healthcare that empower students to bridge the gap between the worlds of medicine and management. They cater to healthcare practitioners looking to elevate their careers or business professionals seeking a purpose-driven profession.
The supply of such programs is expanding. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business recently announced its new joint MBA/MS Biomedical Sciences program, which gives students the opportunity to pursue both a master in biomedical sciences from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Chicago Booth.
The curriculum pairs leadership and management skills with the research, applied and clinical skills needed to manage healthcare. Upon completion of the dual- degree program, graduates will be equipped to enter fields such as biotechnology, policy, government and pharmaceuticals.
The demand for such specialized MBA content and dual degrees in healthcare is growing, driven by several key factors. “There are many stresses, strains and opportunities that arise from many different sources: from shifting age pyramids, to shifts in infectious and chronic diseases, to breakthroughs in biomedical science and technology as well as information technology and analytics,” says Stephen Chick, academic director of the INSEAD Healthcare Management Initiative.
“These changes are stretching our existing health systems, and opening doors to rethink how medicine and management can come together to innovate the business model of health,” he adds. Research coming out of the INSEAD Healthcare Management Initiative is linked to MBA programs that focus on improving the effectiveness of healthcare delivery and wellness.
Navigating emerging trends and challenges
As well as that, the Wharton School University of Pennsylvania runs an MBA concentration in healthcare management, providing students with an understanding of the emerging trends in healthcare and the driving forces behind them. “The healthcare sector is rapidly evolving with advancements in technology, regulatory changes and increased focus on patient-centric care,” says Guy David, chair of the Healthcare Management Department at Wharton.
He adds: “The increased complexity in healthcare delivery requires a deep understanding of both healthcare and business principles, thus driving demand for specialized education in this area.”
Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s full-time MBA program offers a specialization in health, technology and innovation, giving students the business analytics and leadership skills to find technology-driven, human-centered solutions to complex health problems.
“The key factors driving the demand for specialized MBA programs in healthcare are high and rising costs, the complexity of the healthcare environment, and the increasing demand for services,” says Supriya Munshaw, an associate professor and associate dean for academic programs at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
“Healthcare organizations need leaders who understand the business and clinical aspects of health care to efficiently allocate resources while improving patient outcomes and controlling costs,” she adds.
A key feature of Carey’s MBA specialization is a series of courses where students gain hands-on, data-driven experience and develop a product or service that can potentially improve patient outcomes worldwide. Carey also offers MBA courses in artificial intelligence, a rapidly growing theme in healthcare.
Graduates of Carey’s specialization have become strategists and product managers for large biomedical companies, including Abbott, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Medtronic. Others assume managerial roles with insurance firms or healthcare providers or launch health-related start-ups.
A global perspective on healthcare
In Europe, the UCL Global Business School for Health was launched in London in 2021 as the world’s first business school dedicated to health, with a range of degree programs. “These programs provide a solid grounding in management disciplines, like any MBA. They also contextualize health in case studies, projects, fieldwork and networking -- to provide students with a solid understanding of complex health systems,” says professor Julie Davies, director of the MBA Health program at UCL Global Business School for Health.
The school’s MBA addresses the ethical and social responsibility aspects of healthcare management, by including mandatory sessions on regulation and governance, with a range of guest speakers in medical affairs in large pharmaceutical companies and regulators.
Graduates go on to work in management consultancy, entrepreneurship, health insurance and a whole range of careers. “Healthcare sectors are complex and require specialized knowledge,” says Davies. “Governments are increasing expenditure on GDP with a drive globally for universal healthcare, so health is big business.”
Lastly, many of these MBA concentrations were brought to the fore by the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID-19 has put a great deal of attention on healthcare as an opportunity,” says Bradley Staats, faculty director of the Center for the Business of Health at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.
“It sped up some of the modality changes taking place, for example, in online education. In addition, it has sped up the rate of innovation and so programs have had to stay nimble and close to industry to expand capacity and deliver new courses.”
Kenan-Flagler runs a full-time MBA healthcare concentration in collaboration with health science schools on the UNC campus in North Carolina. “There is significant demand from both students and employers,” adds Staats. “Healthcare is almost a fifth of the US economy and continues to change rapidly. With constant innovation and an awareness of the need to create more value, there is a growing appreciation that MBA graduates can bring valuable skills to drive the needed change.”