Streamlining Provider Data Management Could Save Billions…but Is It Possible?

Health Plan Week– For health insurance companies, an accurate, easy-to-update standardized database for network provider data is the Holy Grail. Along with being a major source of frustration for members, inaccurate provider information negatively impacts claims processing, provider credentialing and the ability to ensure compliance with network adequacy rules. It also can create obstacles for providers that want to create a value-based benefit approach.

Pursuing Your MBA Could Be A Matter Of Looking Out Your Window…

HYPE Blog– Master degrees in Business Administration (MBAs) seem like they’re a dime a dozen. And if you look at any compiled list of colleges and universities that offer MBAs, it certainly looks like it. But there are a small number of schools that can boast their MBA return on investment (ROI) are “among the best in the country with affordable tuition and competitive base salaries”. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could say you got your MBA from a school that ranks in the top 25 public universities by US News, or in the top 100 MBA programs by the Financial Times, or in the top schools by Forbes Magazine and Business Week?

Demand for Healthcare IT Specialists Prompts New, Online Program


The School of Business is launching a new, nationally recognized, online certificate program in Healthcare Informatics and Technology. Beginning in March of 2017, the program is designed to meet the growing demand for experts in that field.

“The field of healthcare IT is not only changing, but also expanding rapidly as changes take place in the industry, including the widespread use of the electronic medical record,” said Emeritus Professor Jeffrey Kramer, who specializes in the study of healthcare organizations and who designed the program. Continue Reading

Differences Between Not-for-Profits and For-Profit Hospitals Marginal

Health Leaders Magazine – “The absence of a residual claimant with a financial interest in the organization means that no one individual, or group of individuals, has strong incentives to monitor the behavior of the organization at nonprofit hospitals,” Rexford Santerre, Ph.D. , a professor of finance and healthcare management at the University of Connecticut, wrote in a National Bureau of Economic Research report with a Finance Department colleague John Vernon, Ph.D.

Decreasing Infant Mortality

Decreasing Infant Mortality

UConn Professor, Colleagues Discover That Turkey’s Take-Charge Healthcare Initiative Saves Lives

Since the nation of Turkey launched an aggressive healthcare initiative, providing free and convenient access to primary care for all its citizens, at conveniently located walk-in clinics, the mortality rate has decreased, most dramatically among infants.Continue Reading

Union Leader Raps ‘Lavish’ Pay for Hospital Execs

Journal Inquirer – The millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses paid to executives at Hartford HealthCare and other health networks in Connecticut belie their nonprofit status and show how the delivery of health care here is being changed for the worse, a health care union leader says.

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Top Connecticut Experts Discuss Success of Healthcare Initiative: “We’re Not There Yet—But We’re Making Great Strides”

2015-03-16_aca2When it comes to access to healthcare, Connecticut residents are much better off now than they were prior to the creation of the Affordable Care Act, according to a panel of experts.

But, this new system is still in its infancy and there is still much to be done in order to achieve an ideal healthcare delivery system, they agreed.

The five panelists shared their expertise in a UConn School of Business program titled, “Grading the Affordable Care Act.” The March 4 program drew 75 people to the Graduate Business Learning Center in downtown Hartford.

Panelists included Eric Schultz, president and chief executive officer of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; Anne Melissa Dowling, acting commissioner of the State of Connecticut Insurance Department; Demian Fontanella, general counsel for the Office of the Healthcare Advocate; Matthew Katz, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut State Medical Society, and Jennifer Jackson, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Hospital Association. Katharine Lewis, deputy commissioner of public health, served as moderator.

Early in the discussion, Fontanella described a family that was pleased with its high-deductible health insurance policy and was dismayed to have to select an ACA plan with higher premiums. A short time later, a member of that family developed a serious illness, which would have bankrupted them, had they not been covered by the new, more comprehensive policy. That’s just one example of the healthcare program’s success, he said.

The number of people who lack health insurance in Connecticut has been cut in half, from 8- to 4- percent because of the ACA, Dowling noted. Panelists agreed that more Connecticut residents are now benefiting from greater insurance choices,  improvement in hospital safety and a reduction in the number of people using emergency rooms in place of doctors’ offices. The healthcare act has also eliminated denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and expanded opportunities for young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans. But Schultz offered perhaps the most compelling argument for the program.

“Making health insurance available to low-and moderate- income families has given them a peace of mind that they never had before,” Schultz said.

Jackson, the head of the hospital association, summed up Connecticut’s healthcare system as a work-in-progress.

“We’re not there yet—but we’re making great strides,” she said. The panelists agreed that Connecticut is the nation’s leader in implementing the plan.

Yet for all the good, there are many shortfalls, they agreed, including a shortage of  primary care doctors to care for these newly insured patients. Many small physician practices feel compelled to partner with hospitals or larger practices because their requirements have become so complex. Issues remain surrounding quality assessment, lingering problems of equity and disparity, inadequate transportation to shuttle the poor to doctor appointments and cyber security issues.

Schultz said while people can more easily compare policies, the industry needs more transparency about hospital and physician quality and costs. Members of the panel acknowledged that it is a challenge to define which, among hundreds of quality assessment tools, should be used as the gold standard for excellence.

During the panel’s question-and-answer period, several people in the audience expressed discontent with the healthcare system, saying that it encumbers medical professionals, restricts their time with patients, and that they view the healthcare industry as highly inefficient.

One man said during a visit to his long-time physician for treatment of a sinus infection, the doctor was uncharacteristically rushed and spent most of his time entering information into a computer. Another speaker said during a recent hospital emergency visit, she was asked the same question 20 times by different clinicians. “I thought, ‘This is the most inefficient system I’ve ever seen,'” she said.

Katz, from the medical association, said many doctors feel like they are being ‘evaluated to death.’ But, he said, there is no excuse for inattention. “If, in adapting to change, we lose sight of the patient, we’ve lost sight of care, and we’ve harmed the system.”

The number of physicians who can—or chose to—remain in small practices has dwindled. In the past, about 15 percent belonged to hospital-owned practices and that number has risen to about 50 percent, with a vast increase in the last 18 months, Katz said. That’s due, in part, to the ACA requirement to install electronic medical records, which can cost up to $75,000, a hefty investment for a small practice.

But Schultz defended the increased use of technology—saying the medical profession lags behind all others in its sophistication—and that in many instances, technology has made a physician’s job easier, because with the click of a button, he or she can send a prescription to a pharmacy.

The use of electronic medical records was designed to provide quick access to detailed health records in case, for instance, a Connecticut resident broke a leg while on vacation in Florida, Fontanella said. But, instead, our country now has a patchwork of systems that don’t communicate with each other.

Because so much data is now stored electronically, cybersecurity is also a growing concern for the medical field. Last year, 179 physicians in Connecticut alone had their data breeched, Katz said. “This only highlights the complexity of protecting valuable medical and financial information,” he said.

The discussion also touched on another important concern for Connecticut healthcare providers, the shortage of primary care physicians.

Because more people now have healthcare, the demand for primary care doctors  has increased. In the last year, only 11 graduates of UConn and Yale medical schools stayed in Connecticut to practice primary care, Katz said.

Katz suggested the state offer incentives, including medical school tuition forgiveness, for primary care physicians who are willing to practice medicine in state. Schultz also agreed that healthcare dollars need to be “shifted back” to primary care, who can promote preventive care that can often stem the need for more expensive specialists.

Lewis concluded the program by reminding the audience and panelists that the Affordable Care Act, while extremely important, is just one “tool” to consider when addressing the overall issue of health and well-being of a community, state and nation. Public health measures and favorable changes in health behaviors are equally important, she said.

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School of Business Retirees Gather for Business, Friendship

2015-03-03-retireesgatheringAddressing a gathering of retired- and almost-retired UConn faculty, School of Business Dean John A. Elliott urged them to use their expertise to help mentor junior staff and graduate students.

Dean Elliott thanked those congregated for their years of service to the School of Business, their willingness to act in an advisory capacity to him and to newer faculty, and recognized them as a vital connection to some of the School’s most illustrious alumni.

Rob Hoskin, Harry Johnson, Keith Johnson, Lin Klein, Jeffrey Kramer, Richard Norgaard, David Palmer, Murphy Sewall, James Sfiridis, Susan Spiggle and Crayton Walker were among those assembled, with their significant others, at the beautiful Mansfield home of Richard Norgaard and Karen Zimmer. Dean Elliott’s charming wife, Laura Philips, also attended the first formal gathering of retired faculty on Dec. 7.

Other important purposes of the meeting were to reinforce contacts among lifelong colleagues, share memories and enjoy each other’s company.  Attendees enjoyed a catered, champagne brunch, entered a drawing for door prizes and shared stories of those who could not be present that day but wished to be remembered to all, such as Karla Fox who was in New York at the birth of her fourth grandchild.

One interesting discovery is the creative outlets in which some retirees are engaged.  Michael Lubatkin has just published a scholarly book, but focused more in the area of philosophy than in management.  Dick Kochanek has been painting for a number of years and his artwork has evolved such that he is currently receiving accolades at juried shows.  Rob Hoskin has honed his skills as a craftsman and produces beautiful objects in wood.

Among those who could not attend is Steve Messner.  His daughter would love to deliver any notes and well wishes, so please write to Steve in care of: Stephanie Brown, 144 Woodleaf Drive, Winter Springs, FL 32708.

Planning is underway to host a Spring 2015 event on the Storrs campus. More information will be provided soon.  Those wishing to remain in touch should contact Cynthia H. Adams, Professor Emerita from the former School of Allied Health, at or 860-230-8951.

Photos from the gathering can be viewed here.

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“I Don’t Understand How This Could Be” UConn Students Try to Solve Life-Threatening Medicine Mix-Ups

Pictured (L to R): Charles Fayal and Steve Graf show the Parrot Device, which they hope will prevent medication dosing errors.

When Steve Graf, and dozens of fellow volunteers, traveled to Ghana to help the sick, they brought 35 suitcases of medications and provision—and an endless supply of good intentions.

After a week of triaging patients, and distributing medications, Graf and his colleagues made a startling discovery. Many of the patients weren’t recovering, and some were consuming medications too quickly.

Some adults were doubling up on blood-pressure medications. Children were guzzling liquid acetaminophen from the bottle. And, compounding the problem, many of the patients were illiterate. Sometimes parents would leave the clinic with as many as 20 different prescriptions for their four children, leading to endless confusion.

Everyone on the medical mission was frustrated with the situation, but Graf just couldn’t let it go.

“I thought, ‘This is a terrible thing. I don’t understand how this could be,'” he said. Graf, now a UConn senior majoring in healthcare management, thought about the problem often after he returned from the trip in May of 2013.

How do you give clear and memorable instructions to someone who can’t read? The clinic had tried using illustrations, showing a sun or a moon, but that didn’t seem to work.

“We approach problems given our education and training,” Graf said. “Because we learned to read at age 6, we absorb information visually. Illiterate folks do not. Their traditional learning is verbal.”

Graf thought if the prescribing physician could give medical instructions using an inexpensive recording device, like the one found in a musical greeting card, patients would be able to more easily follow dosing instructions.

He mentioned that concept one day in front of friend Charles Fayal, now a UConn senior majoring in molecular cellular biology and biomedical engineering.

“The moment I heard the idea, I got pretty excited because I instantly knew how beneficial the prescription device could be—and how simple the idea is,” said Fayal, a Stonington native. “It’s funny how somebody else’s excitement spreads, because when I got excited about his idea, Steve got more excited. After that moment we knew we had to pursue this journey.”

After a great deal of research, experimentation and cost analysis, Graf and Fayal have found an inexpensive recording module, manufactured by a Chinese company, that they will be using as their first prototype. The “Parrot Device,” as they’ve nicknamed it, will allow a medical expert to record up to 60 seconds of medical instructions. The casing could be color-coded to match the medications, and both would be placed together in a travel bag.

Neither Graf not Fayal is looking for profit—or even much recognition. A successful solution, they both said, would be rewarding enough.

“We’re hoping this will save lives. That means everything to Charles and me,” said Graf, of Westport, who is the president of the UConn chapter of Global Brigades, a student-led organization that provides medical, public health, clean water and environmental relief trips to countries such as Ghana, Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Graf and Fayal presented their idea at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) annual meeting in San Antonio recently. It was well-received there, as it has been by physicians who are familiar with the challenges of working in third-world nations.

The biggest challenge for the two entrepreneurs has been keeping the price reasonable. Right now it is about $2 per device, and with a large order can probably be dropped to $1. Graf said he would like to try to get the price even lower. The cost of AIDS or blood-pressure medications can be several dollars per day, Graf said. The cost to resolve damage done by consuming prescriptions too quickly—or slowly—can be several times that, he said. The cost-versus-benefit of the Parrot Device is the focus that Graf and Fayal need to persuade organizations interested in their project.

Graf got his start-up funds for the project by winning a Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation pitch competition last year, which gave him $1,000 in seed money for the sound modules and plastic mold for the casing. He and Fayal are now seeking funding for a January trip to Haiti to test the device with patients.

“Haiti is somewhat of a make-or-break trip for us,” said Graf. “We hope to test our prototypes. Our main questions are, ‘Will the patients use the device as intended? Will the community adopt it? Will the patients benefit from it?'”

Beyond the initial concept, Graf and Fayal envision additional uses, such as education in infectious disease areas, such as Ebola-plagued villages. Prevention might become an even greater tool than treatment, they said.

Next semester Graf will take an entrepreneurship class and plans to write a business plan focused on the device. Graf and Fayal are hoping a large charitable organization will adopt the cause and fund the project.

“It has been a journey bringing this device to fruition,” Fayal said. “Some days we’ll realize that we have a mound of work in front of us, or a major obstacle to tackle regarding manufacturing or approval.

“On these days we get bummed out, but we know we have to power through because when we get to talk to somebody who has been to a place where this device is useful, it makes it all worthwhile. These people, whether they grew up in an impoverished area or worked in one, will get excited about the idea,” he said. “Just like when Steven first told me about the idea, we get excited about it all over again.”

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