On March 27, Leonard Berry, a University Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, hosted representatives from the Patients’ Cancer Hospital in Denmark in a new Undergraduate Honors Healthcare class (MKTG 489) at Mays.
The 15 medical doctors and executives are visiting the United States as part of an “inspiration trip” to learn from and share ideas at M.D. Anderson, then other American cancer hospitals. Berry met these doctors when he was in Denmark last summer and gave
a presentation at the Patients’ Cancer Hospital.
Dr. Dorthe Cruger, CEO of Lillebaelt Hospital and chairman of the Danish Cancer Society, discussed the creation of the new Patients’ Cancer Hospital, which is part of The Lillebaelt Hospital. Denmark launched a new comprehensive and national cancer plan titled “The Patients’ Cancer Plan.” The Cancer Society and hospital teamed up to identify what matters most to patients and not simply provide what the hospital believed they needed. “The vision and mission of the hospital, is always the patient first,” said Cruger.
The Danish Health Care System is a national health care system supported by an average tax of 50 percent of an individual’s salary to support free health care, a university education, and other social services. Denmark has one health plan and spends 50 percent less on healthcare than the U.S. In the national patient survey for Denmark, a 95 percent patient satisfaction rate is the goal. It measures several factors including whether patients and their relatives participate in decisions about treatment.
Healthcare customers are a unique type of consumer – reluctant to purchase, at risk and often highly stressed. During a visit with business students in the Improving Service Quality in Healthcare course, J.R. Thomas, executive vice president of Optum, shared some of the complicated challenges healthcare providers face today.
The visit was the second day of a trip to Mays for Thomas and Optum senior executives Doug Hansen ’89, Allison Miller ’99 and Kevin Kuhn. The first day, Thomas presented to Business Honors students in the Executive Speaker Series, followed by a networking session and student dinner sponsored by Optum. The second day Thomas and his team members from Optum spoke with MBA students and to students from the School of Public Health.
Leonard Berry, University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, taught the lecture for the Improving Service Quality in Healthcare course discussion and facilitated discussion between students and their visitors. The focus on Healthcare is one of Mays’ Grand Challenges.
In the discussion, Thomas underscored one of the most important issues facing healthcare providers: stress. “Patients and their families are faced with life-altering decisions, nurses and doctors work long hours and endure emotional exhaustion to provide the best service possible, and management is stressed with striking a balance between good will toward those who can’t afford expensive healthcare and staying in business,” he said.
The key, he said, is to remember that patients are more than customers; they’re people. He provided an example of an end-of life scenario: “If a patient is dying, it’s important to personally talk to the family. Give them your instinct. You can’t always prevent death, but you can control how it will happen.”
He elaborated on another complex situation: “Some customers can’t always afford healthcare. But remember you also owe it to patients to stay in business.”
Technology creates new challenges, opportunities
Thomas also shared how technology is changing the landscape of medicine. “Routine visits and checkups for common maladies are moving towards telemedicine, such as simple phone calls instead of expensive in-office visits,” he said. “But for the more serious cases, the value of a personal touch in an in-person visit will never go away. Patients need that.”
Marketing senior Rachel Claggett said she was impressed by the amount of involvement the business side of healthcare has in the lives of patients. “It’s reassuring to know that there is humanity and passion in this industry – it’s not just about profits.”
Thomas received his master’s of business administration focusing on finance and management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Arkansas.
Leonard Berry, a marketing professor at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, has stepped up his research of cancer care to encompass those closest to the cancer patients – the caregivers. Most often, the caregivers are family members, and are not professionals at caring for patients.
His paper, “Supporting the Supporters: What Family Caregivers Need to Care for a Loved One With Cancer,” isonline and will be in the January print issue of Journal of Oncology Practice. The journal is one of the two journals published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. It is widely read in the oncology community.
“It is an article that I am especially proud of because it addresses a real need to better prepare and support the family caregivers of cancer patients in their caregiving roles,” Berry said. “This is a group that is often overlooked, even though the caregiver is an extension of the medical team.”
Berry’s co-authors are Shraddha Mahesh Dalwadi, who earned her MBA from Mays and is a fourth-year medical student at Texas A&M; and Dr. Joseph O. Jacobson of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.
The researchers propose a four-part framework for supporting family caregivers:
– Assess caregivers’ needs using formal measures, just as the cancer patient’s own needs are assessed;
– Educate caregivers for their caregiving roles, most notably, with training in the low-level medical support that cancer patients require at home;
– Empower caregivers to become full-fledged members of the patient’s cancer team, all working toward common goals;
– Assist caregivers proactively in their duties, so that they retain a sense of control and self-efficacy rather than having to react to imminent medical crises without sufficient resources at their disposal.
An estimated 4.6 million people in the United States care for someone with cancer at home. Too often, these caregivers—spouses, other family members, or friends—are poorly prepared for this vital but demanding role that takes a toll on them and, by extension, the patient.Only one-third of all caregivers report being asked by a health-care provider what they need to care for the patient; even fewer are asked what they need to care for themselves. That lack of preparation can worsen the anxiety that caregivers already feel about a loved one’s health.
An at-home caregiver typically provides the patient with cancer with at least four types of assistance: daily living activities, medical care, social support and advocacy.
The psychological burden may be even greater for family caregivers than for the patient, especially as the disease advances,and greater for female than for male caregivers.Stress is particularly heavy if caregivers feel ill-prepared: a sense of low self-efficacy heightens the perceived burden, so it is important to develop self-confidence for the caregiving role.
Berry is University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Regents Professor, and holds the M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. He also is a Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence.
His research has focused on service, particularly in health care, and in recent years more specifically on cancer care.
“I became interested in studying service improvement in cancer care because we are making more progress on clinical care than service care, and when cancer strikes, patients and their families need both,” Berry said. “I am able to leverage my career background as a services researcher and the past 15 years intensively studying healthcare to contribute to our thinking about trying to ease the path for cancer patients and their families.”
As a visiting scientist at Mayo Clinic in 2001-2002, he conducted an in-depth research study of healthcare service, the basis for his book, Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic (2008). He also has conducted and published field research at Gundersen Health, ThedaCare and Bellin Health, three high-performance health systems in Wisconsin. Concurrent with his faculty position in Mays Business School, Berry is a senior fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement studying service improvement in cancer care for patients and their families.
Berry has written 10 books in all, including Discovering the Soul of Service; On Great Service; Marketing Services: Competing Through Quality; and Delivering Quality Service. He is the author of numerous academic articles and an invited lecturer throughout the world.
TriFusion Devices, the winner of the 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC), the world’s richest and largest student startup competition, was invited to ring the opening bell Monday at the NASDAQ Stock Market in New York City. Cofounders Blake Teipel and Brandon Sweeney participated in the morning ceremony, along with representatives from RBPC and Texas A&M University, including Philippe Hercot, executive professor and director of Aggies on Wall Street at Mays Business School.
TriFusion Devices was the first Texas A&M team to win the Rice competition, the world’s largest student-centered business plan competition. The team received checks totalling nearly $400,000.
The team illustrates a collaboration between several colleges at Texas A&M, and it bolsters the arena of health care – a priority at Texas A&M and at Mays. “So many faculty and staff members invested in these young people. The team’s success is a beautiful example of collaborating across the university and beyond,” said Mays Dean Eli Jones. “It aligns nicely with our primary mission of advancing the world’s prosperity by developing such areas as entrepreneurship and health care.”
Their project was based on breakthrough additive manufacturing products and services aimed at simplifying and expediting the process of manufacturing custom prosthetic devices. The team applies a revolutionary, patent-pending process that fuses together 3D printed parts to next-generation biomedical devices. The result is a durable, lightweight, custom-fit prosthetic device created within 48 hours, saving time, labor, and materials by eliminating the residual limb plaster-casting process and the current need for test-fit sockets.
TriFusion Devices got their start through Startup Aggieland, a globally recognized, award-winning business incubator and accelerator program at Texas A&M. Through the mentorship and experience provided by Startup Aggieland and other university initiatives, such as the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, TriFusion’s founders were able to incubate their ideas and prepare for the commercial world. In addition to the Rice University Business Plan Competition, TriFusion Devices has received several other top honors, including winning the 2016 Baylor New Venture Competition, the Raymond Ideas Challenge at Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and the SEC Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition.
Don Lewis, the team’s mentor and coach at Startup Aggieland, said the team has a promising future. “Be on the lookout for this company,” he said. “They are a team to watch because of what they do. They’ve created a revolutionary way to 3D print plastics that are extremely durable and strong, and they are crafting them into very useful objects, like the prosthetics.”
The students plan to open a manufacturing production facility within the next few months in the Bryan-College Station area, Lewis said. Britton Eastburn, a Mays Business School MD/MBA student who was on the team at the time of the victory, has resumed medical school.
TriFusion Devices competed against more than 750 applicants on 42 teams from the world’s top universities before 300 judges over a three-day period to emerge as the top startup company at RBPC.
“We are grateful for the support, guidance, and encouragement that we’ve received from the Texas A&M University and Rice University programs,” Teipel said. “The experience and coaching we have received as we’ve launched our venture have proven immensely valuable to our success.”