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Health Care Symposium:  Patient Focused Health Care Management

Two hundred and fifty physicians and healthcare administrators attended the inaugural Health Care Symposium on December 3rd, hosted by Rice University Executive Education. Three presentations, all focused on improving patient satisfaction, offered a candid and energizing look at the state of healthcare in the U.S.


Symposium RileyDr. Wayne Riley, Meharry Medical College President and CEO, and Rice MBA ’02 alum, delivered an intriguing talk about the politics of health reform, and what it means for physicians.
Dr. Riley noted that issues of cost, quality, and access are key drivers of the debate on health insurance reform, and that most everyone agrees the status quo is unacceptable. Several methods of health care cost control exist, including fee for service, episode-based performance, capitation, and Prometheus payment model; yet there is still too much geographic variation in cost, which isn’t justified by science.

Dr. Riley also posited that excessive administrative hassles of primary care make this an unattractive field for many medical students. Expanding healthcare coverage will place a strain on the availability of primary care providers. These factors combine to cause a widespread shortage of primary care providers in the coming decades. Dr. Riley noted that increasing scholarships for medical students, as well as eliminating the administrative burdens of primary care, will help to alleviate the shortage.

“One of the best things about the Rice MBA is the emphasis on teams,” Dr. Riley recalls of his days as a student at the Jones Graduate School of Business. “We haven’t taught our students to work in teams in American medical education.” Teamwork is an essential element of providing the highest in patient-centered care, and should be at the forefront of every med student’s education.

Dr. Paul Dholakia
, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Jones Graduate School of Business, presented “Health Care Consumer 2.0,” a dynamic look at online healthcare trends. Dr. Dholakia’s research of online health care education reveals a stunning disparity between the content that is delivered, and the actual needs of online health care consumers, who are becoming more connected and discerning. Dholakia makes the distinction between healthcare Web sites that are purely for information consumption, and those that allow interaction, noting that “there is no substitute for information provided from people with chronic conditions to those with similar conditions."


Symposium DholakiaIn order to better serve online health care consumers, Dr. Dholakia recommends that health care administrators make use of 3rd party Web tools, such as Facebook or Twitter, to educate their consumers instead of using pure marketing tactics. These tools also allow consumers to voice concerns and question practices in a neutral forum, and as more consumers demand transparency, healthcare administrators have an opportunity to meet those demands with improved services and open communication, thus creating greater patient satisfaction.

Dr. Vikas Mittal, J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at the Jones School, spoke frankly about health care organizations measuring patient satisfaction as a corporate imperative, and yet they “don’t understand marketing well; it’s an afterthought.” He argued that real marketing is not public relations, advertising and brochures but focusing on and building competencies that develop clear metrics and link to cash flow.


Mittal contends that most organizations don’t fully understand why they should measure patient satisfaction, and, if they do understand and conduct a patient satisfaction survey, they aren’t sure what to do with the results. He discussed how a health care organization’s integrated approach to marketing can affect patient outcomes.


Citing numerous studies, Mittal confirms that hospitals with patient satisfaction in the 90th percentile experienced a nearly one third increase in patient volume. For hospitals with patient satisfaction in the bottom 10th percentile, the average patient volume decrease was 17 percent. Mittal determined that satisfied patients are loyal patients and are more likely to return to the same provider for future medical care.