Innovation in Health Care and Education

Laura C. Hart, director of online educational initiatives, answers questions about the impact of COVID-19 on the MHCI program and the work of the MEHP Online team.

Laura C. Hart

How was the MHCI program positioned to face COVID-19?

The Master of Health Care Innovation prepares health care professionals to navigate rapid change and, by design, takes place online. So we happened to be well-positioned to respond when the pandemic hit.

A time of rapid transformation places high demand on innovation and leadership, which are the program’s core competencies. Students and alumni were prepared to apply lessons in health policy, behavioral economics, operations management, and innovation methodology—all urgent factors during a pandemic—to the situation.

As one member of the Class of 2020 said: “This program is exactly what we need to change medicine. We will need to reinvent our piece of the health care system, especially after COVID-19.”

The instructional and academic support team shifted to remote operations with no service disruption.

How has the MHCI program responded to the pandemic?

A dedicated team has crafted a high-quality, resilient program to remain responsive to anticipated needs and changing realities. Examples from within courses:

  • Urgent topics—typically related to the course and to students’ professional work—arise during weekly live faculty-student discussions. For example, conversations in Spring ’20 covered challenges around PPE and rolling out telehealth.
  • Faculty members highlight recent publications to complement such discussions.
  • Faculty and instructional designers review and refresh learning materials, assignments, and program activities in light of current issues, including COVID-19 and the increased urgency around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in health care.

In addition the MHCI program took the following steps to accommodate students’ needs while preserving the overall program experience:

  • Adjusting coursework policies to enable students with increased workload, personal obligations, or health issues to continue learning.
  • Providing a space for all current MHCI students to discuss COVID-19 asynchronously.
  • Reimagining Seminar—the multiday, pre-Fall immersive session originally held in person—as a virtual experience to build community, explore innovation topics with experts, practice skills with small group projects, and familiarize new students with MHCI’s online learning environment.
  • Offering expert reflections on COVID-19 responses and outlooks, plus conversation with students, during Seminar panels.

The MHCI program will continue to adapt policies, content, and activities in order to prepare students to lead and innovate through the rapid transformations in health care initiated by COVID-19, including calls for health equity.

How else has the online team served as a resource?

The MEHP Online team, which created, develops, and supports the Master of Health Care Innovation program, usually stays behind the scenes. But COVID-19 thrust to the forefront our own expertise in online education and in developing multimedia resources. We deployed our own innovative thinking immediately in March 2020.

Special initiatives include:

  • Sharing best practices for building online community and fostering online learning. Just weeks into the pandemic, our 9-person team posted guides for instructors and students in a new Teaching Resources section of the website.
  • Consulting with faculty at Penn and elsewhere about remote teaching.
  • Launching Ethics, Policy, and COVID-19, an online collection of timely content from experts in the Department, program faculty, and MHCI alumni—just one week after Teaching Resources went live.