Health pro­fes­sionals and researchers often empha­size the impor­tance of what is known as healthcare’s “triple aim:” enhancing patient care, improving pop­u­la­tion health, and reducing costs. To ensure the suc­cess of health­care reforms that target these goals—whether they are spe­cific to a single hos­pital or as sweeping as Pres­i­dent Obama’s Afford­able Care Act—healthcare sys­tems and prac­tices must be orga­nized and man­aged effi­ciently and effectively.

To that end, North­eastern con­vened an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of 60 experts nation­wide from the health­care industry and acad­emia for the 15th annual Orga­ni­za­tion Theory in Health Care Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence on May 29–30. At the two-​​day meeting, hosted by Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness, par­tic­i­pants dis­cussed recent research find­ings and method­olog­ical break­throughs in health­care orga­ni­za­tion and man­age­ment sci­ence. Asso­ciate pro­fessor Tim­othy Hoff and pro­fessor Gary Young co-​​organized the con­fer­ence, which was pre­sented in con­junc­tion with the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Center for Health Policy and Health­care Research.

In opening remarks, Hoff iden­ti­fied sev­eral recent instances of health system reform that would ben­efit from the work of orga­ni­za­tional researchers such as improving the func­tioning of impor­tant mech­a­nisms for insur­ance pur­chasing such as Health​Care​.gov, exam­ining how best to imple­ment new pay­ment sys­tems within hos­pi­tals and physi­cian prac­tices, and how to better secure and safely share patients’ elec­tronic health records throughout the system.

These are all cur­rent research areas that we can and should take the lead on as orga­ni­za­tional and imple­men­ta­tion experts,” Hoff said.

The con­fer­ence dove­tails with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to pur­suing use-​​inspired research in health, one of the university’s three core research themes. The other two are secu­rity and sus­tain­ability. The con­fer­ence, in part, served to advance the university’s bur­geoning rep­u­ta­tion in the health­care arena.

Research paper pre­sen­ta­tions at the con­fer­ence focused a range of topics, including the growing number of account­able care orga­ni­za­tions across the U.S., the increasing reliance on health infor­ma­tion tech­nology to deliver care, and the orga­ni­za­tional changes occur­ring in U.S. hos­pi­tals that may yield the greatest effi­cien­cies over time.

The con­fer­ence also fea­tured keynote addresses from sev­eral of the most nation­ally accom­plished health orga­ni­za­tion scholars and pro­vided an oppor­tu­nity for some of the nation’s top health ser­vices researchers to net­work, transfer knowl­edge, and brain­storm around key system prob­lems that must be solved moving forward.

Hoff, an associate professor of management and organizational development, healthcare systems, and health policy at Northeastern, gives introductory remarks at the conference. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Tim­othy Hoff, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of man­age­ment and orga­ni­za­tional devel­op­ment, health­care sys­tems, and health policy at North­eastern, gives intro­duc­tory remarks at the con­fer­ence. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Much of the con­ver­sa­tion on the second day of the con­fer­ence focused on account­able care orga­ni­za­tions, or ACOs, which are groups of doc­tors, health­care providers, and hos­pi­tals that come together to share finan­cial risk in taking care of patients.

During a panel dis­cus­sion of health industry exec­u­tives, par­tic­i­pants shed light on research areas that could lead to improved health­care orga­ni­za­tion and man­age­ment in this space. Christina Sev­erin, pres­i­dent and CEO of Beth Israel Dea­coness Care Orga­ni­za­tion, an ACO in Mass­a­chu­setts, said it would be ben­e­fi­cial to see more research that explores the bar­riers to patients’ accep­tance of ACOs and in sharing their per­sonal health infor­ma­tion throughout the system. Part of the con­ver­sa­tion, she said, is thinking about health­care as a shared resource.

For his part, George Moran, an exec­u­tive pro­fessor in Northeastern’s High Tech MBA Pro­gram, pointed to the value of research that helps health­care sys­tems cus­tomize and better under­stand how to create authentic patient expe­ri­ences. He noted that the nation’s health­care system is too often focused on what is being done to the patient rather than for the patient.

Moran also cited the value of applying supply chain man­age­ment research to health­care sys­tems, a strategy aimed at real­izing the full scope of a patient’s health­care beyond the physi­cian, including long-​​term care, reha­bil­i­ta­tion, tele­mon­i­toring, and other health ser­vices. “There has to be an under­standing of the con­tinuum of care for that patient,” said Moran, noting that more com­pre­hen­sive ana­lyt­ical data can iden­tify best prac­tices for an indi­vidual patient and group of patients within a spe­cific population.