Apple recognizes the College's Master of Health Care Delivery Science program

by Sonia Qin | 10/28/15 7:40pm

Dartmouth’s Master of Health Care Delivery Science program has been recognized by Apple for its innovation, use of technology and design of its curriculum.

The Apple Distinguished Schools program recognizes outstanding schools and programs worldwide for innovation, leadership and educational excellence. The five criteria that all recognized schools and programs must meet are visionary leadership, innovative learning and teaching, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success and a flexible learning environment.

Dartmouth’s program — known as MHCDS — is an 18-month master’s degree course that is targeted at mid-career health professionals and leaders in health care. Students include doctors, nurses, surgeons, hospital executives and insurance company executives, among others. This program was launched to combine management with medical knowledge to equip leaders in the field with the skills to reimagine and redesign health care, MHCDS co-founder and learning and technology manager Ano Lobb said.

“We designed our program in such a way that it would be rigorous enough to be called a Dartmouth master’s degree, to really deserve that name and to deliver the kind of education that Dartmouth is famous for delivering,” MHCDS program director Katherine Milligan said. “At the same time, it would be accessible for someone with a busy life.”

MHCDS utilizes distance learning, which means that students can access assignments and readings virtually. Live sessions are done through video, and students and faculty communicate through blog posts, video blogs, chats, discussion boards, live video discussions, online documents and pre-recorded lectures. Students can also enhance their learning through online games.

“We have tried to create a learning environment that any professor at Dartmouth would point to, and say, ‘Yes, that’s the way Dartmouth delivers education’ — cutting-edge, yet intimate with the dialogue among students and with faculty in a distance learning model,” MHCDS faculty co-director Eric Wadsworth said.

Operations management professor Robert Shumsky said the distance learning model does not prevent students from getting a “rich and intense experience.”

Instructors in the MHCDS program are affiliated with the Tuck Business School, Geisel Medical School and the Dartmouth Institute, Shumsky said.

“We work very closely together so the students are getting an education that is the best of all of those parts of Dartmouth,” he said.

MHCDS was created during former College President Jim Yong Kim’s tenure to fill a need for greater efficiency in health care delivery practices.

“We understand what we need to do to treat diseases and prevent diseases, and yet the right care does not always get to the right people, in the right amount, at the right time,” Milligan said. “It’s a question of how you deliver the care, and that is fundamentally a management science.”

Lobb created an application for Apple’s competition in iBook format. Part of the motivation for applying to the Distinguished Schools program was the possibility of creating a stronger relationship with Apple, Lobb said.

For the application, Apple encouraged programs to tell their story not only in words, but also through interactive videos and graphics, he added.

“We approached [the application] the same way that we approached the development of our curriculum, by experimenting with it,” Lobb said.

All the videos embedded in the iBook were filmed with an iPad. Lobb said the application allowed his team to develop technological fluency on a new platform, producing a more social, on-demand experience for viewers and delivering their story in a new and more compelling way.

Part of this ability to building a strong relationship comes from both parties’ commitment to evolving technologies, as MHCDS is continuously looking for the next step in learning and educational technology, Milligan said. The program, for example, provides students with a wide range of learning methods and ways of disseminating information.

“The pace of the week is absolutely uniform, almost the entire 18 months. Every course is almost the same, within a course it’s exactly the same. That’s so students can set their routines by it,” Wadsworth said.

The course opens on Monday morning with video lectures and readings. By Thursday at midnight, students are expected to turn in individual assignments. On Friday afternoons, professors will send out a summary response to the homework. For Sunday night, there is a team presentation that is due. On Tuesday, students discuss some of the presentations from Sunday to embed the learning that occurred in the first half of the week.

“I needed to learn additional languages in order to be effective at providing change that would be beneficial to the patients that we are trying to care for,” MHCDS student and former president of medical staff at the Lehigh Valley Health Network system Robert Motley said.

Health care and management need to go hand in hand, Motley said. While health care professionals need to grasp business skills, health care industry board members need to gain a deeper knowledge of medicine, he said.

“I really wanted to help guide change and help educate other leaders who are part of health care by learning to speak their languages. That makes them more receptive to listening to what patients need,” Motley said. “Everyone has a piece of the picture, but MHCDS helps you to see more of the big picture and helps to share that with others.”

Motley sees MHCDS as a program with international value, because he is able to communicate with colleagues from all over the world, including Rwanda and Peru. The program’s mixture of online and in-person teaching has also been helpful for his schedule, he said.

“[MHCDS] has given me broader and deeper insights into how our American health care system is structured,” Motley said. “It’s also helped me to understand some of the forces that impact how health care delivery takes place.”

Although pleased by the recognition from Apple, MHCDS leadership and students interviewed said they were not surprised by the recognition.

“I think it speaks well of the MHCDS staff who designed the learning environment and who are constantly looking for what’s next in learning and educational technology,” Milligan said.

Apple’s recognition of MHCDS is not only a useful marketing tool, but will also allow the program access to a community of practice for MHCDS’s learning and technology staff. It will also permit access to “some of the best design people at Apple,” Wadsworth said.

MHCDS will now get to participate in a variety of events that Apple sponsors. This will create a platform to learn from other programs, Shumsky said.

“I think Apple’s recognition of Dartmouth may help Dartmouth expand this as a learning platform and be able to continue to push the envelope of novel ways of supporting learning,” Motley said.

MHCDS currently supplies each matriculating student with an iPad Mini on which they can access assignments and readings and even attend live video sessions. The next step for MHCDS is to expand its technological frontier even further, with staff looking into developing the Apple Watch as a viable teaching tool, Milligan said.