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New degree addresses issues in health care reform

June 05, 2013

With the rising changes in the health care industry, the College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) is responding to an increased need for health management professionals by introducing the Bachelor of Science in Health Systems Management program at the ASU Polytechnic campus, beginning this fall. The program encourages the development of health system leaders equipped to develop innovative solutions in response to changing health policy.

The degree offers an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the health care industry through courses in information technology, management and leadership, as well as human-centered service design. Students will learn to develop solutions that address health system problems at multiple levels.

CNN, Fortune & Money announced in December 2011 that, among a list of ten careers projected to become the most in-demand jobs over the next few years, the top three careers are information technology or health care-related – and experts say it is due in part because of anticipated health care reform.

Craig Thatcher, associate dean of CTI, predicts that because new legislation has made it possible for an increased number of Americans to obtain and have greater accessibility to health coverage, health care industries will need to reconsider their current models of management.

“Health systems need to consider how they are going to meet the growing demand for health care and think about who is going to drive change,” Thatcher said. “This change will be driven by recent graduates with a background in health systems management who are eager to impact the way that health care systems function and improve efficiency and effectiveness.”

Students in the program can choose from a focus in Information Technology Management, Operations Management, Training and Development, or Service Design. Regardless of the focus chosen by a student, the program requires all participants to enroll in core classes that develop well-rounded students prepared for a broad scope of careers in the health industry. This core list of classes will include teaching cultural aspects of health, modern health care systems in the U.S., information storing and retrieval, understanding the enterprise, and other areas relevant to management in the health industry. 

Graduates will be prepared for various analyst and management positions in the health industry, but ultimately the program will produce students who are equipped to lead and affect change in the way health care systems are managed.

“This new degree is aligned with an important industry sector,” Thatcher said. “As is true for all CTI degrees, industry partners will be part of the learning process, providing students with real-world projects and learning experience as part of their program.”  

The degree is in partnership with ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, which will provide the five core health-related classes. Director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion Linda Vaughan says it is paramount for students to understand current health systems in the U.S., particularly if they are trying to change or manage them.

“Students need to understand the context in which these programs will be implemented and tools used. Culture is a key to that context,” Vaughan said. “If a specific culture, for example, finds certain practices offensive or unacceptable, program managers, developers or implementers need to know that. Knowledge of best practices is an economic essential.”

The new program also will serve as a feeder program for students who want to study health administration and other health technology-oriented programs at the graduate level.

Thatcher says that we are at a critical time in the health industry. 

“There is growing national discussion about how health care systems need to be rethought in order to be more efficient, outcomes-driven and value-driven,” said Thatcher. These are clear indicators that there is a huge need for people with a background in health systems management. This new degree will develop creative problem solvers who are interested in challenging careers and being part of solving important problems facing our state and nation.”

CTI also recently announced new degree programs in Information Technology and Manufacturing Engineering.

For more information on the Health Systems Management degree program, email Craig Thatcher at

Written by Sydney B. Donaldson, College of Technology and Innovation