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May 14, 2009

Case Competition Challenges Students

case

Piney Woods Hospital is plagued with problems. This community hospital’s emergency department is in chaos and losing business because of low staff moral and large numbers of uninsured and dissatisfied patients. Don’t worry, this is only a drill. Piney Woods Hospital doesn’t exist. The scenario, or case, is an exercise for students enrolled in the Master of Health Science (MHS) degree program in Health Finance and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The ability to analyze problems, develop innovative solutions and convince others of their viability is a continuing challenge for workers in the U.S. health care sector,” said Teresa Schwartz, MS, assistant director of the MHS Degree Program in Health Finance and Management. “To meet this challenge, we’ve added a formal case competition to our curriculum to give students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-world health care problem.”

This is the first year the Bloomberg School has added a formal case competition to the MHS curriculum. The competition format is similar to those used in national case competitions for MHA and MBA programs throughout the country. For this year’s competition, the cohort of nineteen students was divided into six teams. The case of Piney Woods Hospital required the teams to come up with solutions to reduce ED wait times, to increase patient and employee satisfaction, and to improve the hospital’s reputation within the community. The teams presented their recommendations on April 3 to a panel of judges composed of health care decision makers from the Baltimore area. In the weeks following the case competition, each team also viewed a video tape of its presentation for performance feedback with the instructors.

Angela CJVincent, whose team finished first in the competition, enjoyed the opportunity to apply her classroom experience but noted “It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. It was an opportunity to take all that we have learned in the classes and put it all together.”

The students were encouraged to come up with innovative solutions for the problems posed by the case said student Ahmed S. Elsayed. “There was creative aspect to the whole experience,” he noted. “It was a great learning experience and I commend the organizers of the class.”

Ann-Michele Gundlach, EdD, associate director of MHS Degree Program in Health Finance and Management program, said she believes the case competition was a success and that all of the students rose to meet the challenge. “It was just what we wanted the experience to be; students tackling a real problem in real time presented before real decision makers. This kind of experience is essential in a health care management graduate program because it is the kind of experience these students will face in their jobs.”

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or tmparson@jhsph.edu.