Commentary: How Business Schools Can Help Improve The Healthcare System

Business Schools’ Role In Improving The Healthcare System

Medical errors account for the third leading cause of death in our healthcare system. In the wake of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 12-18), it is a good time to reconsider how unsafe our medical system truly is. What’s more troubling, since 18% of our gross domestic product is allocated to healthcare costs — more than other countries — it’s clear these extra dollars have not produced better health outcomes.

Businesses, as one of the largest purchasers of healthcare services, hold a significant amount of market power to improve our healthcare system by demanding a safer healthcare system for their money. Yet business professionals lack the tools and training to demand a safer healthcare system. Unfortunately, many business schools have failed to equip the next generation to ask the right questions of healthcare providers and require the best care from dollars spent.

Business schools must create educated healthcare consumers as future business leaders. It may seem out of place, but a course in patient safety/quality should be added to the core curriculum of MBA programs. Additionally, accounting students could hone their skills to analyze healthcare cost structures. Data analytics students could focus on data mining methods to identify centers of excellence and management students could learn to create and support a culture of safety. Patient safety and quality training in business schools is needed to move the quality curve of our healthcare system.


The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is poised to support this needed direction given its focus on business training to produce societal impact. Savvy and educated business students who will go on to purchase healthcare services will add a needed layer of accountability to the healthcare system.

The impacts of our unsafe healthcare system are far-reaching. They touched my family, as my father died of a medical error after having two routine tests performed on an outpatient basis; however, due to underlying medical conditions he should have been monitored in an inpatient setting. After experiencing a heart attack during the procedure that went undiagnosed, he was sent home to die.

As a university professor with a dual appointment in the business and medical school, I have fought to insert a patient safety and quality course into the graduate business programs. But the prevailing notion remains as colleagues do not understand why such a course is needed in the business school and suggest it would only have value for those interested in healthcare management.

There is some movement to bring employers into awareness of their purchasing power and ability to require a safer healthcare system. For example, The LeapFrog Group, a coalition of employer groups, regularly publishes hospital safety grades. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ranks hospitals on a variety of safety and quality measures using a star system.


A few employers, like Walmart, are making strides and leveraging their purchasing power for safer and better-quality health systems and procedures. Walmart is using data to identify centers of excellence for certain procedures and steers their employees to seek care at these centers.

Regardless of industry, business leaders now must recognize their role as healthcare consumers, and recognize that their decisions and purchasing power directly impacts their employees’ health and wellness. It’s time for AACSB to support this needed direction. What better way for AACSB to show societal impact than to train our next generation of business leaders in how to influence and improve the safety of our healthcare system?

Savvy and educated business students, who will go on to purchase healthcare services, would add a needed layer of accountability to increase positive outcomes within our healthcare system, and ensure their employees and their families receive only the best quality of care.

Angela S. Mattie, JD, MPH is a professor at Quinnipiac University in the Schools of Business & Medicine. She is a former Trustee of Trinity Health of New England and currently serves on the Board’s Quality/Safety Committee.  

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