Contact: Melanie Magara, Office of Public Affairs
January 31, 2008
DeKalb Ė A sea change is on the horizon for the American healthcare system, and industry analysts are worried that none of the principal players are ready to manage that change. Evolving health-benefit structures. New technology. Changes in the physician-hospital relationship. Growing numbers of uninsured patients. Movement toward integrated electronic patient records. Increasing calls for quality control and regulation.
"The list is endless, and not one of these issues can be managed without broad understanding of legal, financial, medical, regulatory, technical and ethical perspectives," says healthcare consultant Cherilyn Murer. "Todayís healthcare leaders need cross-disciplinary training that complements their focused expertise."
To that end, Murer and her husband, Michael, made a six-figure investment to jump-start a new healthcare initiative at Northern Illinois University, where Cherilyn serves as chair of the universityís governing board. Faculty from four different colleges are working on the NIU Healthcare Policy and Management Initiative, exploring the emerging educational needs of health professionals and creating new certificate and degree programs to meet those needs.
One of the groupís first projects is a comprehensive survey of national healthcare executives. CEOs, chief financial and operating officers, heads of nursing and information systems and hospital legal officers are being surveyed by NIUís Public Opinion Lab to determine new program priorities. This study will help shape new program descriptions and will be discussed at a March meeting of the American College of Health Care Executives in Chicago.
Leading the initiative are Donna Munroe, professor of nursing in NIUís College of Health and Human Sciences; Kathleen McFadden, professor of operations management in the College of Business; Gary Chen, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology; and Jay Naftgzer, visiting associate professor in the College of Law and former vice president of legal services for WellPoint, Inc., in Chicago.
"Itís critical for any new certificate or degree program to really reflect the needs of professionals in the field," explained Munroe. "Based on what weíve gathered so far, itís clear that NIU has great breadth of expertise in the areas of most interest to healthcare providers."
Program founder Cherilyn Murer agrees.
"Theyíve already mapped existing NIU courses into potential new certificate and degree programs," Murer explained, "and the results are exciting new, multidisciplinary curricula that I think will have great appeal to healthcare leaders in our region and beyond."
The healthcare policy and management initiative tracks closely with priorities established last year in NIUís comprehensive strategic plan, according to Provost Ray Alden.
"Expanding our commitment to healthcare leadership is one of the top priorities that emerged from our planning process," Alden explained. "NIU is uniquely qualified to provide that leadership, and the Murersí gift allows us to fast-track new program development in the health management field."
Drawing on her own background in healthcare business and legal consulting, Murer says the need for greater cross-disciplinary understanding is a challenge she sees "on a daily basis."
"The challenges we face in modern healthcare are complex, and they require broad, horizontal viewpoints," Murer said. "How does the money work? What laws might have to change? Do patients have all the information they need to make good choices? How do insurance policies affect the way doctors practice medicine? Health professionals have to deal with all of these issues every single day, and they need a breadth of knowledge to handle them compassionately and effectively."