Hands-on work with Affordable Care Act is part of the FIU Healthcare MBA experience.

Hands-on work with Affordable Care Act is part of the FIU Healthcare MBA experience.

Before donning cap and gown, Florida International University (FIU) Healthcare MBA students will have a unique experience designed to arm them with the skills hospital administrators most desire: understanding how Affordable Care Act requirements function in the real world.

In the last part of the program, all HCMBA students will undertake a “capstone” residency at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, where they will parse data to evaluate how health care reform rules that reward quality care are affecting reimbursement. It’s an initiative designed by Miriam Weismann, academic director of the Healthcare MBA program at the College of Business, and crafted by program faculty and hospital executives.

Miriam Weismann, Academic Director, FIU's Healthcare MBA program and Javier Hernandez-Lichtl, CEO of West Kendall Baptist Hospital
Miriam Weismann, Academic Director, FIU’s Healthcare MBA program and Javier Hernandez-Lichtl, CEO of West Kendall Baptist Hospital

“We’re looking at the practical effect the Affordable Care Act is having on hospitals in South Florida,” Weismann said. Exploring a group of related topics forms the study’s core.

“It requires our students to apply the concepts and principles they’ve learned in the classroom to answer questions on reimbursement, expansion, raising alternative sources of revenue, and how to expand and continue the culture of excellence,” Weismann said.

While most people are familiar with the ACA as it relates to personal insurance, less well known are provisions in the legislation that investigate, and in many cases promote, new payment models based not on each doctor visit or hospital procedure, but centered on health outcomes.

Numbers and analysis are key.

Putting that concept into numbers is not an easy task. It means evaluating how often patients get readmitted and the kinds of procedures that are performed as well as variables in patient population. Health care facilities are still feeling their way forward.

Patient readmissions data is one focus of the FIU/West Kendall Baptist project. Students will also look at the penalties imposed, or bonuses awarded, under ACA provisions.

“What we are having our students do, working with West Kendall, is evaluate their data and come up with recommendations of how to improve the delivery of quality care,” Weismann said. At the same time, students will advise on how to maneuver amidst the sometimes ambiguous reimbursement rules.

“We are doing something that no other university is doing: hands-on work with practitioners in upper management to study the impact of the ACA and create a path forward for healthcare organizations in this new age of regulation.”

Both on-campus and online HCMBA students will participate in the capstone program. Students will present their health policy reports to an administrative panel made up of hospital executives who will evaluate the content and presentation. Weismann said that FIU is in talks to expand the initiative to other area hospitals.

The program isn’t just a boon to students, but a plus for the hospital as well.

“The students give us hope for the future of healthcare in the U.S.,” said Javier Hernandez-Lichtl, CEO of West Kendall Baptist Hospital. “They are bright, innovative and energized to make a positive impact.”

It’s not the first joint venture undertaken by university and hospital. West Kendall is the academic partner of the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and has collaborated over the years with many other FIU entities.

This collaboration “enhances our partnership with FIU; we benefit from the students’ positive energy, enthusiasm and ideas; and it provides a potential pipeline of talent for Baptist Health South Florida and West Kendall Baptist Hospital,” noted Hernandez-Lichtl. “We also really value the education that FIU has provided to several of our employees and physicians.”

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