It’s like being on a language course

A psychiatrist learning the lingo of administration and business

Reetta Räty, 13.10.2017

“It’s important to learn to speak the same language with the politicians and people dealing with the finances", says Jesper Ekelund, professor in psychiatry at the University of Helsinki and the head of psychiatry in Vasa hospital district.

He decided already at a young age that he would be a physician and psychiatrist one day. After graduating, he found himself also researching the field, spending a few years as a researcher in the U.S. Psychiatrists are interested in areas such as the human mind, free will, mental health, and the connection of the physical world with emotions and feelings. Today, physicians and psychiatrists also face other questions, especially if involved in hospital administration and health care development programs and reforms, as is the case for Ekelund.

The current social and health care reform in Finland has left many physicians outside of their comfort zone. Discourse in the field is approached through numbers, concepts, profitability, competition and efficiency - in the language of business and administration.

According to Ekelund, the Aalto Executive MBA studies serve as a type of language course.

“When it comes to the reform, it’s important to speak the same language with the politicians and people dealing with the finances. Sometimes in sorting out a conflict, people find they’ve been speaking about totally different matters. A shared language and terminology help find common understanding.”

The right terminology needs to be applied to each context. Instead of speaking about service design to health care professionals, the issue or thinking can be explained in more familiar terms to them.  

Also business thinking, such as the customer experience concept, can be applied directly to the health care industry."

Concepts, strategies, customer experience and business models – that is the language of the EMBA programs. “Despite this, I’ve spotted topics in the module that apply directly to my work”, says Ekelund. “It makes it easier when I know what we’re really talking about when working with people who deal with finances at my own workplace, for instance.”

Also business thinking, such as the customer experience concept, can be applied directly to the health care industry. But then there are areas where the work of a physician differs from the business world.

“Let’s take an ear infection for example. Business thinking would mean giving patients what they want: a course of medicine. But the physician needs to consider whether it’s beneficial for the patient. He or she may conclude that the medicine isn’t needed, or maybe even harmful. Sometimes it is good for the patients NOT to give them what they want.”

Ekelund is on the same lines with many of his colleagues in thinking that the special characteristics of the industry mean leading change needs to involve physicians.

In our industry, efficiency in allocating resources to the benefit of patients is what counts.”

Business thinking cannot be directly applied to an industry with endless demand, where increasing demand would be unethical to say the least (= more sick people to gain more customers). Customer satisfaction cannot always be guaranteed in the strict sense of the word, as disclosing unpleasant news is also part of the job.

On the other hand, physicians involved in the administrative reform and major reshuffle of resources need to be able to speak the right language to make the most of their expertise.

“In our industry, efficiency in allocating resources to the benefit of patients is what counts.”

Learn more about the Aalto Executive MBA in Helsinki. The Aalto EMBA program is offered in seven locations: Finland, Singapore, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Iran.

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