Faculty Spotlight: Donna Malvey


Course: HSA6128, Healthcare Services Management is a required course that is currently only offered as an “M” (mixed or hybrid) course. In past years, the course was also offered in other formats; that is, completely online or face-to-face. The shift to “M” class format applies across the board to all of our graduate courses and reflects changes in accreditation perspectives as well as the desire of both students and faculty to take advantage of blended learning. The course offers a broad perspective on the conceptualization and development of marketing and customer service in healthcare organizations. The focus is on the links between theory and practical applications. Representative state-of-the-art methods from the best customer service organizations (inside and outside of healthcare) are examined. In addition, this course also considers the impact of social media and mobile technologies on marketing practices and strategies By the end of the course, the student is familiar with a variety of approaches to marketing and enhancing customer service and has developed the knowledge, understanding and specific skills for use in careers.

Enrollment:  Graduate students, 3-credit hours. Class enrollments for each section are capped at 35 students.

Background of the Class and/or Assignment: Technology is upending healthcare, and not just the clinical components. Marketing and customer service are being called on to integrate social media and all that is new in technology. Unfortunately, university classrooms are often at least 3-5 years behind the curve. When students interview for jobs, they are asked about what is new.  Consequently, faculty must search for ways to update teaching content. This assignment came about as the result of research I was doing for a book on mobile health care technologies. As I was doing the research, I recognized that I had to find a way to let students gain experience about healthcare mobile apps for use in marketing and customer service. Mobile apps are no longer just for games or social media. Healthcare organizations (HCOs) recognize the demand by consumers and the benefits their patients could experience as well as the potential uses for marketing. Hospitals, private practices, urgent care clinics and diagnostic facilities are offering patients apps that provide access to their medical records, appointments, and health information and HCO social media sites.  In doing so, these HCOs are also using the apps to advance branding strategies, collect data, and perform other features essential to successful marketing of the products and services.

Lesson Title: Build Your Own App Assignment

Description/Purpose: To engage the students so that they learn how to use mobile apps in the real world of healthcare. To help them gain confidence in taking on the unknown (building an app). I wanted to give students the opportunity to figure out how to use new technologies as a professional tool.

  1. I would let them complete the assignment as part of a team to reduce the intimidation of the assignment. The assignment would cover most of the semester.
  2. The students were empowered to select the type of app, but they did have to submit it for approval. This was to certify that they weren’t taking on too much work or going in the wrong direction.
  3. The assignment was designed so that students would experience both the conceptual process as well as the technical app construction process – which as it turns out is not the challenging part of the assignment. Apps are fairly simple to construct, but the conceptualization piece, especially identifying the purpose, is the tricky and thought provoking aspect of the assignment.
  4. Students were given instructions on how to construct the app – simple, step-by-step instructions as well as links to examples for of healthcare apps that they might want to use for reference or model.
  5. I developed detailed guidelines as well as a series of questions for students to ask their team during the thinking phase of the process so they would not skip over that phase and make straight for the actual app building.
    • Do you currently utilize “m-Health” or mobile apps?
    • If you do not, would you? Why or why not?
    • If your workplace adopted a mobile app, what do you think would need to be included?
    • From a patient perspective, what would you expect from a healthcare mobile app?
    • What would your app look like?
    • How would you let your patients know about your mobile app?
    • And –What role should mobile apps potentially play in marketing strategies?
  1. Student teams would be required to do a presentation that demonstrated their app and explained the conceptual process. I, again, provided guiding questions.
    • What is the vision for your app? Is it clear and recognizable?
    • For which audiences/users do you think this app would be most useful?
    • How would it be useful to the patient? To the HCO?
    • How would you use this app in your own work environment?
    • What would you add, change, or delete from this app? Why?
    • How would you brand this app?
    • What are the challenges for achieving marketing success with this app?
    • How would you measure the success of this app as a marketing tool?
  1. Finally, throughout the term I would post or share information from blogs, journal and news articles, as well as continue class discussions.  I wanted this assignment to be alive in the class and always on their mind.
  2. Students were reminded that of key goals relative to their app, including to link the app to the marketing functions and to assure that their vision for the app is clear, complete, and easily recognizable.

Execution/Challenges: Students reported few problems with the instructions and building an app. Some students enthusiastically embraced the assignment and went beyond my expectations. One student even used what she learned in the assignment to introduce mobile healthcare apps at her internship facility. Some students waited until the last minute thinking that the assignment was no big deal. As a result, they created apps that made no sense. Our students are expected to be headed for executive level positions, and they need to learn to manage their work and assess time needed to complete assignments. I intend to share with future classes samples of student presentations to give them insight into the level of work that is expected to successfully complete the assignment.

Results Presentation example — I believe this student group presentation reflects what the students accomplished in this assignment.

Reflection: All of the students in class have mobile technologies ranging from tablets, iPhones, iPods, to other assorted technologies. What I discovered was that most students use their technology for entertainment or for convenience. They order takeout, make movie reservations, chat with friends, stream their favorite television shows, share photos and the like, but most don’t know how to use the technology to do real work beyond typing up an assignment or collecting information from a website. I think that too often faculty assume that the millennials are technological wizards and while they may be super technicians, they need guidance in how to use the technology beyond entertaining themselves or ordering a pizza and then later completing a satisfaction survey.

Posted in Faculty Spotlight