Assistant Professor of Marketing, Andrew Gallan (right) helps Muhanad Diab, a student in his popular health care management course on service design and the patience experience.
It took just 115 characters and the hashtag “#PX” for Andrew Gallan to get the
prompt attention of one of the largest health care systems in the country.
Gallan, an assistant professor of marketing at DePaul, was accompanying
his wife on her hospital visit when he tweeted about their experience. The tweet
set off a chain reaction that ended with an email and voicemail from the
company’s vice president.
Gallan uses the tweet and the hospital’s response in his
“Service Design and Patient Experience” course to show students a practical
example of how vested health care institutions are in addressing this previously overlooked
area in health care management.
The course, which is part of DePaul’s Healthcare
Sector Management MBA concentration, focuses exclusively on the patient
experience, an area, Gallan says, that offers unique opportunities for those
seeking careers in health care management.
“There is a movement underway to reduce the amount of harm
that health care institutions do to their own patients,” says Gallan, a PhD who
has 20 years of experience in sales, marketing and management and was a
research assistant at the Mayo Clinic. “Really, the patient experience is
inseparable from clinical care.”
From Charts to Lobby
Patient experience—or in Twitter parlance #PX—is all about improving service to
health care customers. This includes everything from clarity in clinical communication
to lobby lighting and the softness of beds. Hospitals, doctors’ offices and outpatient
clinics are all looking for ways to shore up their patient satisfaction scores,
primarily for one reason—the federal government.
In 2006, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
(CMS), a federal agency that administers health care programs such as Medicare,
created a customer satisfaction survey. They suggested health care institutions
voluntarily administer the survey to patients.
Now, after nearly 10 years since its inception, the patient
satisfaction survey is mandated and part of CMS’ reimbursement payments are
tied to its scores. This change in reimbursement payments became a catalyst for
the growth in the patient experience arena.
Nationwide hospital CEOs are creating new jobs with titles,
such as patient experience director and chief patient experience officer. It’s
an unmapped area for the health care industry, and DePaul’s new course helps
students navigate this brand new career path.
“The course helps students gain an appreciation for why
understanding health care from the patient’s perspective is important and how
that impacts the management strategies of health care institutions,” says
Gallan’s course is divided into three sections:
- Understanding the business case for improving
- Analyzing and interpreting patient experience
- Working with industry professionals to gain
insight on how to improve patient experience.
Within the course, students learn from a variety of patient
experience experts around the nation. These experts, many working in
multi-billion-dollar health systems, discuss their work and share best
practices. In addition to the lectures, students work one-on-one with professional
mentors on an aspect of patient experience so they can get hands-on training.
In addition, students are privy to large anonymous customer
survey data sets, donated to Gallan’s class by major health care institutions,
so they can analyze actual patient experience data and come up with
recommendations for improvement.
“We’re trying to liberate the patient’s voice from data,”
Gallan says, “And we teach students how to translate that data and communicate
that data to senior management.”
Students rave about the practicality and professionalism of
“Dr. Gallan’s class for me was the most valuable and most
applicable to my current job,” says Andres Valencia, patient experience advisor
for University of Chicago Medicine (UCM), a four-hospital health system located on
Chicago’s South Side. Valencia is also a DePaul MBA student with an expected
graduation completion in 2015
“When I got this job I really hit the ground running,” says
Valencia, who spent six years in the hospitality industry before switching
careers. “No one had to explain to me what patient surveys were, or how the
data was collected and what issues there are. It’s thanks to [Dr. Gallan’s]
class that I’m working in the field today.”
Valencia was so pleased with the course that he returned as
a professional mentor. He now mentors Muhanad Diab and Omar Shaker, who are
currently taking the class. Diab and Shaker work with Valencia at UCM examining
the patient discharge process and how it affects patient experience. They
look at how hospital staff informs patients about their treatment options,
follow-up visits, and other factors that affect patient health after they leave the
“It’s great working with Andres because we get to go into
the field,” says Diab. “We observe the patient’s behavior, as well as staff
behavior during the discharge process, and compare what we see to the current
best practices and what we are studying.”
Diab was a pharmacist in his native country of Jordan before
coming to DePaul to get his MBA. He says he loves Gallan’s course because it
focuses on the business side of health care management and teaches him how
hospitals can gain a competitive advantage by focusing on patient services.
“Organizations are striving to offer the best service they
can to patients to preserve their reputations,” says Diab. “And this course teaches
us how they do just that.”