For many years healthcare services across the world have been coming under increasing pressure. Factors such as aging populations, rising expectations, and the growing costs of advanced treatments, have all added to the strain. But in many places, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed these systems to breaking point.
Given, therefore, the pressing need to improve efficiency, better target the allocation of resources, and streamline processes, the launch of a new MSc program in Health Analytics and Operations Management (HAOM), by Lingnan University, could not be more timely.
This one-year, full-time, or two-year, part-time, interdisciplinary program will equip current and aspiring health service managers and coordinators with data-driven management knowledge and skills. Working in collaboration, Lingnan’s Faculty of Business and its School of Graduate Studies have developed a curriculum that integrates theories and methods of healthcare and operations management, with the use of a variety of data analysis and modeling tools.
Professor Padmore A. Amoah, a leading member of HAOM’s Programme Planning Committee, acknowledges the particular relevance of the program during the current global crisis. “It is evident that people with these sort of skills – people who are able to analyze, and find patterns in data – are in much greater demand now, as health systems need to be able to track and understand the dynamics of the disease to make informed decisions.”
But he believes the stresses placed on health services by the COVID-19 pandemic simply underline the need for these skills on an ongoing basis. “We are hoping that people with this degree will be able to address not only clinical but also administrative, and other public health-related challenges, from a more data-driven perspective.”
Professor Leng Mingming, Dean of Lingnan’s Faculty of Business, says that his faculty will be providing the technical expertise to HAOM. “Our aim is to enable optimal decision-making on healthcare problems.”
In the future, he says, doctors will be able to make increasing use of AI and big data to analyze their patient’s symptoms and help them make their diagnosis. While the program’s focus on online healthcare applications – enabling, for example, the uploading of blood pressure measurements – is of particular importance at a time when it is essential to limit in-person contact.
Even so, he adds, non-digital means to improve operational efficiency, such as through modifications to the physical layout of healthcare facilities, will also be studied.
HOAM students will have the chance to take up internships and other experiential opportunities with private and public agencies in Hong Kong and Mainland China and apply to take part in exchange programs with a range of overseas universities. It will also be possible for students to learn about broader health and care issues in the Greater Bay Area, via the LU-Wuyi Joint Research Centre on Ageing in Place.
Professor Leng points out that even after the current pandemic is brought under control, nobody knows what health-related crises, requiring fast and effective data-driven action, will arise in the future. “So we need to develop emergency management for the healthcare sector,” he suggests.