Whether it’s on the frontline of a pandemic or rolling out a vaccine, strong healthcare management is crucial in the fight against disease.
For most of 2020, the healthcare profession has been in the world’s focus as one of the frontline fighters of COVID-19.
Throughout history, infectious diseases have stalked and claimed millions of human lives and when the novel coronavirus began its global march in late 2019, it marked the predictable return of an old enemy with a new name.
But predicting a pandemic doesn’t lessen what continues to be a perplexing challenge for healthcare professionals.
Because so little is known about a new virus – its rate of contagion, virulence, treatment and prevention – COVID-19 has had world leaders and healthcare experts scrambling for more information, resources, capacity and efficiency in bid to slow its spread.
Public health, healthcare management and medical informatics are Associate Professor Sandeep Reddy’s areas of expertise and he says that while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges, it is strong healthcare leadership, management and collaboration that’s played a key role in keeping Australia’s case numbers low.
‘This has included implementing strict quarantining measures, robust contact tracing mechanisms, preparing hospital resources for upsurge in cases, and involving clinicians in planning for healthcare delivery. The ability of health services to adapt by offering telehealth and remote health monitoring to substitute for some in-person attendance services has also been critical to success,’ he explains.
Assoc. Prof. Reddy began his career as a medical doctor before expanding his skills with postgraduate degrees in healthcare management, an MBA from the London School of Economics, and a PhD that researched hospital reforms and data analytics.
Working across a number of prestigious public health roles – including a stint with the World Health Organisation – Assoc. Prof. Reddy now leads Deakin’s MBA (Healthcare Management) program which delivers a world-class, customised health and business qualification.
Reflecting on 2020, he says important lessons have emerged for healthcare managers in the challenge to improve capacity and delivery.
‘Some of these have been learning to respond early to outbreaks, only considering evidence-based medical and public health advice for implementation, ensuring appropriate public messaging for action, and taking the advice of clinicians and front-line health workers when planning and delivering emergency services,’ he says.
In comparison to global COVID-19 statistics, Australia is faring well. But with the northern hemisphere in the grip of a relentless second wave, Assoc. Prof. Reddy says that robust healthcare management has never been more important.
‘The strong narrative from what we’re seeing in Europe and the USA, is that the countries with strong healthcare leadership and imposed early and strict lockdowns – and with good public compliance for quarantining/social distancing measures and excellent contact tracing mechanisms - have done well. But the countries with a relaxed approach to the pandemic, including less strict regulations and poor planning in organising healthcare resources, have fared very badly.’
Within a vaccine on the horizon, sound healthcare management also plays a significant role in the delivery of an immunological solution he adds.
‘At any time, the rollout of a vaccine across a country or large population requires early and careful planning.
‘But with the requirement to deliver a novel vaccine – which applies to the current COVID-19 options – the need to organise all the accompanying logistics, like cold chain transport, storage and delivery routes for large populations, can be immensely challenging. It means there’s an even greater requirement for strong and smart healthcare leadership that draws upon skills like logistic management, resource planning, public health, and healthcare operations knowledge. These skills are critical for successful execution of COVID-19 vaccination campaign.’
Skills such as these are embedded in the MBA(HCM)’s core curriculum which boasts tailored units from the School of Medicine and the Deakin Business School.
Importantly, it is a program that’s underpinned by real-world, practical learning.
‘‘This means the curriculum is not only relevant and pragmatic in the healthcare context but also prepares graduates for healthcare challenges like the pandemic,’ says Assoc. Prof. Reddy.
‘Logistics and healthcare operations management, resource allocation, clinical governance, health informatics, leadership are all taught as part of the course. We also offer opportunities to implement these skills via placements with various health services. This is a targeted and practical healthcare management qualification for professionals who want to utilise business skills in a health context.’
Find out more about Deakin’s MBA (Healthcare Management) program.