Fisher profs honored with 'Best Paper' award for health-care research

Last year, COE talked to Fisher College of Business professors Aravind Chandrasekaran and Kenneth Boyer about fascinating new research they were preparing to publish about the health-care industry. That their work didn’t go unnoticed is an understatement.

From left, Chandrasekaran, Senot, and Boyer

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, or INFORMS, recently honored Chandrasekaran, Boyer and co-author Claire Senot, a doctoral candidate at Fisher, with their Best Paper Prize for 2012. INFORMS is the single largest professional society in the world for operations researchers and those in the management sciences and business analytics fields.

The researchers’ paper, “Process Management Impact on Clinical and Experiential Quality: Managing Tensions Between Safe and Patient-Centered Healthcare,” was chosen for the top honor among 843 papers published in INFORMS journals. It originally appeared in Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, and Boyer spoke in a breakout session at our Leading Through Excellence conference in April on the topic.

The awards committee told Boyer and his co-authors that their work stood out for the clarity of a concept that’s far from simple, but a fact of life for anyone who has spent time in a hospital as a patient or visitor. They found that as hospitals work to keep in step with government mandates and reduce medical errors over the long term, they’ll also see improvements in the overall patient experience. The catch: Those same experience scores are prone to take a dip in the short term.

In other words, as health-care providers work in overdrive to give patients better and safer care, they’re initially skimping on good communication and catering to individual patient needs. That changes, but it takes time.

The research does more than simply highlight this initial “trade-off” between clinical quality and patient experience – it charts the path to narrowing that gap. Chandrasekaran told us in a Q&A last year that hospitals see very little of that trade-off if they track patient experience along with clinical quality right off the bat. And because money never hurts as a motivator, the government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is now linking reimbursement rates with patient experience scores.

This all points to a very exciting culture change for the health-care industry – a domino effect of sorts. As the industry digs deep into how it can provide better clinical care, that same scrutiny is making its way to the patient experience. Even if money’s the motivator, any patient would say that’s a good thing.

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