A Capstone Course Linking Business Knowledge and Strategic Initiative

A Capstone Course Linking Business Knowledge and Strategic Initiative

George P. Sillup (Saint Joseph's University, USA) and Stephen J. Porth (Saint Joseph's University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7576-4.ch007


This chapter describes the capstone course in which students act as internal consultants and apply the knowledge they acquired from previous courses in the MBA curriculum (e.g., strategic thinking, competitive analysis, statistics, forecasting, financial analysis). Students form teams of complementary backgrounds and expertise (e.g., president physician services, director of nursing, community medicine physician, rheumatologist) to develop and write a strategic plan, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of business knowledge and the competitive environment. Uniquely, in this capstone, the instructors collaborated with top management of Lancaster General Health (LG Health) to identify a set of strategic priorities focused on five issues: standardization, innovation, competition, growth/scale, and interaction with the University of Pennsylvania. Each of these became a project assigned to a team of students who concluded the course and the MBA program with a presentation of their strategic recommendations to top management of LG Health.
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In March of 2013, Lancaster General Health (LG Health) and Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) formed a partnership to better prepare physicians and healthcare professionals for managing in an increasingly complex and volatile healthcare sector. The partnership resulted in the launch of an online MBA program for a cohort of LG Health physicians and healthcare professionals. The cohort consisted of 21 top physicians, nurses and managers from LG Health enrolled in an MBA Program custom-designed and delivered by business faculty at SJU. The program, which continues to be offered to healthcare professionals, is unique in that it is delivered primarily online and is designed specifically to address the unique strategic and operational complexities of healthcare institutions. Furthermore, the program culminated with an innovative capstone experience that afforded students the opportunity to act as internal consultants to LG Health senior executives on a series of strategic priorities identified by the LG Health senior management team in collaboration with the authors of this chapter. The purpose of this chapter is to describe the capstone experience.

The healthcare sector and healthcare organizations have grown increasingly complex with advances in technology, regulatory and compliance pressures and the volatility and uncertainty of insurance markets. Medical and nursing schools provide physicians and nurses with rigorous training in science and medicine but doctors and healthcare professionals are typically not prepared to manage the business side of medicine and deal with the strategic, financial and operational complexities of their healthcare institutions. Recognizing the gap in the experience and education of healthcare professionals and the needs of today’s healthcare institutions, LG Health’s CEO, envisioned a solution to bridge the gap.

After careful evaluation, LG Health decided to partner with SJU and the Haub School of Business because SJU has a long history of graduate business study that is focused specifically on the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. Collectively, Haub School faculty members have decades of industry-relevant experience, including expertise in legal, regulatory, sales, financial, marketing, management, strategy and healthcare provider positions. When the LG Health-SJU partnership was formed, SJU had already had more than a dozen years of experience in delivering the MBA with a healthcare focus. Additionally, SJU uses an innovative hybrid learning approach, incorporating online and in-class courses, specifically crafted for a sophisticated and time-pressed healthcare professional.

Cohort learning has some special advantages. It can offer an intensive, collaborative and experimental learning environment that not only fosters in-depth individual business knowledge but also enhances organizational awareness and builds institutional culture (Prouty Project, 2017). For example, doctors in rheumatologic medicine gain greater appreciation for the challenges of doctors in emergency room medicine and vice versa. Cross-departmental teams begin to form within the culture, breaking down institutional silos and building teamwork.

Additionally, the learning experience accompanying course work increases students’ strategic awareness about issues facing their organization. This is especially important in healthcare due to the dynamically changing and volatile environment as Congress ponders alternatives for the Affordable Care Act (Sternberg, 2017). Such was the vision of LG Health’s CEO, who foresaw the favorable impact to the organization despite today’s trend for companies not to invest in graduate study for employees (Marotti, 2016). This vision resulted in the development of the MBA program with SJU and ultimately yielded 21 MBA graduates (Duke, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cross-Departmental Teams: Teams from different work areas of the hospital (e.g., emergency room and data analysis).

Hybrid Learning Approach: Learning approach that incorporates online and in-class sessions.

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