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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics
UD Lerner MBAs improve patient outcomes

By Heather Bender March 20, 2018

You probably wouldn’t equate a hospital stay with a relaxing hotel getaway.

“Hospitals are not hotels,” said Ali Poorani, associate professor in the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, “But there are many opportunities for both industries to benchmark and learn from each other.”

The Lerner College’s new MBA major in healthcare management prepares students for careers in an ever-changing healthcare landscape by exploring the intersection of patient care and hospitality services.

“Other programs focus solely on the business side,” Poorani said. “This is a unique program that combines healthcare and hospitality.”

Studies indicate that medical treatment accounts for nearly one quarter of a patient’s overall experience during a typical hospital stay; the remaining 75 percent involves hospitality auxiliary services. From receiving incoming patients to delivering quality meals and providing comfortable amenities for patients and visitors, a hospital visit requires many tasks more commonly associated with the hotel industry.

“My mission is to make hospitals more hospitable.” Poorani said. “It’s all about exceeding the expectations of patients and their families.”

Poorani was inspired to develop the program after the remarkable success of the Patient Experience Academy (PEA), a joint effort between the Lerner College and Christiana Care Health System designed to educate healthcare providers on the emotional and environmental aspects of patient care.

Participants attended a series of training sessions on proven hospitality concepts that were specifically adapted for patient care. Within the first year of the PEA, Christiana Care saw a significant increase in patient satisfaction scores, particularly in the areas of teamwork, respect and helpfulness. Since its inception in June 2015, the PEA has graduated over 1,000 Christiana Care employees.

“After seeing the impressive results of the Patient Experience Academy, we realized there was a unique opportunity to create a niche with the development of the healthcare major,” Poorani said.

The MBA Major in Healthcare Management is an interdisciplinary effort between the Lerner College’s Department of Hospitality Business Management and UD’s prestigious College of Health Sciences. The program merges targeted classroom learning with hands-on project work in the healthcare industry. Course offerings are designed to give students valuable insight into topical subjects like patient experience, healthcare reform and e-service delivery. A convenient online format allows professionals to learn on their own schedule and apply concepts in real time. 

Poorani added that practical application of academic concepts is a critical component of the program. One of the major’s required courses, Patient Experience and Engagement (HOSP840), challenges students to collaborate with regional healthcare providers to develop ways to evaluate and improve patient experience in their facilities.

“One team explored the best way to discharge patients,” Poorani said, citing an example of student projects with real-world application. “That relates directly to hospitality: If a patient is being discharged, but their ride can’t arrive right away, what do you do? Do you keep them in the room, or can you discharge them to an accommodating, interesting waiting area?”

The team studying this subject developed and designed a new discharge program for their hospital client, who was so impressed that one student was invited to participate in its discharge design committee.

So far, student feedback about the new major has been positive.

“I enjoyed the course,” said Kris Kelly, an MBA graduate who completed HOSP840 last spring. “It was interesting to learn how the healthcare industry is increasing its efforts to focus on the patient. I was able to apply what I learned to my job as a sales manager.”

“I learned a lot, and appreciated the tools that were used in class,” added CPT Darryl Wilson (ROTC), a current MBA student. “The world of healthcare has shifted dramatically, and it’s important that we bring with it the best practices utilized within the hospitality industry.”

More information on this and all of Lerner’s MBA and master’s programs will be available at the Lerner College’s next open house on Thursday, April 5 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Trabant Center. Register for the April open house here.