Faculty across the Broad College of Business strive to positively impact organizations and society through their scholarly work — and the health care industry is no exception.

Whether it helps to advance health care management, address business issues in the industry or protect patients, Broad research moves the needle.

Boosting efficiency in health care management

From eliminating waste to designing equitable distribution systems and care networks, health care managers face many complex business issues. Broad faculty are working to evaluate today’s challenges — which have been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic — and offer solutions to boost efficiency.

Hospitals could save millions of dollars annually by reducing wasted supplies and unplanned costs. Research from Anand Nair, Eli Broad Professor in supply chain management, reveals that an average of $1,800 is wasted per operating room surgery, or nearly $28 million annually. The costs quickly add up when surgical supplies are packaged together but some are unused, or when additional supplies are suddenly needed during surgery. According to Nair, understanding supply waste is the first step to boosting efficiency. Next comes tracking these costs so that learning and better planning can happen on a large scale.

Outside of operating rooms, hospitals have faced increased financial pressure and produced higher volumes of medical waste overall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nair is hoping these circumstances will trigger a much-needed reset in how health care organizations think about supply-related waste. He recommends hospitals consider ramping up recycling of nonhazardous waste, decontaminating and reusing supplies — based on new sterilization methods approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and working with suppliers to rethink packaging of surgical supplies, all of which could save the industry billions.

Business strategies from other industries can also be applied to health care settings to cut costs, increase revenue and improve patient flow. Work from Sriram Narayanan, Kesseler Family Faculty Fellow in Supply Chain Management, and Shawnee Vickery, Demmer Legacy Professor of supply chain management, is the first to look at applying lean implementation to health care holistically, measuring both social components and positive financial impacts.

Lean implementation is an integrated approach often used in manufacturing to eliminate waste through things like ongoing process improvements and standardization. For lean to work in the health care setting, Narayanan and Vickery’s work reveals the critical role that hospital employees play. Having involved employees and creating a psychologically safe climate for workers to share ideas and spend time on process improvements are necessary ingredients for financial success through lean implementation.

Hiring the best employees — and keeping them — is a concern across many industries, only heightened by “the Great Resignation,” which was brought on by immense changes to workplaces and the increased demands of the pandemic. Tackling these issues head on, Frederick Morgeson, Eli Broad Professor of Management, has spent the last 15 years studying health care recruiting and hiring. He has helped health care administrators understand how to hire the best employees: those who perform at a high level and deliver a higher quality patient experience. He has examined and built tools to measure applicant skills that are critical to the patient experience, such as communication, as well as competencies such as stress tolerance, two particularly important characteristics in today’s patient-centric health care environment.

When it comes to employee retention in health care, Morgeson said that some positions report more than 100% turnover annually, often costing organizations thousands of dollars and resulting in negative patient outcomes. He has made a significant impact in this area, creating tools to predict which employees are more likely to stay at the organization. So far, this tool has been deployed in more than 1,000 health care organizations and is helping to drive employee retention.

Designing equitable health care systems is also an ongoing challenge for administrators. This includes everything from ensuring capacity to serve patients at existing facilities to employing fair and efficient distribution systems.

Take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. Vaccinating an entire population has been no small task. How do leaders decide who should be vaccinated first? What are the best locations for vaccine production and storage? And how do we ensure that people who need vaccines are able to get them? Recent work from Tobias Schoenherr, Hoagland-Metzler Endowed Professor in Purchasing and Supply Chain Management, is the first to provide strategic recommendations on how to vaccinate an entire population. Ultimately, the findings say that prioritizing cities based on the number of active cases and death rate has a significant impact on reducing the overall number of cases in a country. Coupling this with a focus on vaccinating vulnerable populations will further save lives.

Considering that nearly 45% of the world’s population lives in rural areas, serving these patients — during a pandemic or simply for a routine checkup — also requires specific planning. Vedat Verter, chairperson of the Department of Supply Chain Management and John H. McConnell Chair in Business Administration, specializes in health care operations management. Some of his recent research develops a framework for rural network design that minimizes additional costs for health care administrators, improves capacity at facilities and increases accessibility for patients.

Operational decisions in health care can also save lives and improve patient’s quality of life. Beste Kucukyazici, assistant professor in accounting and information systems and supply chain management, has studied how to incorporate patient preferences into the design and operation of facilities and how to optimize the design of medical units based on quality of care and cost. Her work stands to improve the lives of those with serious health issues such as heart failure and breast cancer.

Protecting patients across the board

Delivering the best for patients must always remain at the core of what health care systems stand for. This means providing accessible, accurate, affordable, equitable and, of course, effective care for all. Research from Broad faculty works to uncover pitfalls in the health care system today and inform the future of the industry to ensure patients are protected.

For those who like to avoid waiting rooms and would rather search their symptoms on YouTube or WebMD, the availability of medical information online has been a great convenience. The problem? Fake news spreads faster than validated and credible news, including health care content. Anjana Susarla, Omura-Saxena Professor in Responsible AI, has studied how medical misinformation spreads on social media, including harmful trends that have stunted COVID-19 vaccination rates. Her work offers practical guidelines for practitioners who are creating medical content and tactics for social media companies to stop misinformation in its tracks.

Amid the pandemic, the use of telemedicine — seeing a medical professional virtually — has also exploded because of its convenience and safety. But to what extent does a practitioner’s virtual bedside manner play a role for patients? Research from Lu Zhang, associate professor of hospitality business, shows that hospitable telemedicine stands to empower patients, significantly influencing their emotional well-being. Her work emphasizes the potential for hospitality to be interwoven into health care institution culture to ensure that patients feel the warmth and receive effective support.

Affordability is an important topic in health care because high costs and lack of insurance coverage can lead to social and economic discrimination for many. John (Xuefeng) Jiang, Plante Moran Faculty Fellow and professor of accounting and information systems, has recently published numerous research articles that help policymakers promote price competition and create value for patients. Jiang’s work examines hospital pricing transparency, whether commercial or cash prices offer more affordability and the dynamics of commercially negotiated prices for radiology and surgery services.

Protecting patients extends beyond just providing the best care; it also means safeguarding their sensitive personal information. Jiang has helped to uncover the kind of data stolen during hospital cyberattacks, which hospitals are more likely to suffer from data breaches and under which circumstances data breaches can happen. This work is making a high-quality impact for millions of people, broadening public awareness, influencing policy and, ultimately, improving security.

Counterfeit drugs have also become a major concern, with the number of global incidents increasing more than 2,000% since 2002. Ongoing research from Ahmet Kirca, associate professor of marketing and director of MSU’s International Business Center (CIBER), in collaboration with MSU’s Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection, uncovers proactive marketing actions that pharmaceutical companies can implement to effectively combat counterfeit issues, with a specific focus on Africa. The recommendations include ongoing internal and external communications to raise awareness for employees, suppliers and patients; improving monitoring throughout the entire supply chain to track the movement of drugs and report any invasions; and taking responsibility for counterfeit issues and alerting patients. The IBC also provides substantial financial support for A-CAPP events, including its A Brand’s New World conference series, which focuses partially on counterfeit issues in the pharmaceutical industry.

As noted by many of the researchers, health care challenges are well studied but not solved. There is room for improvement to create a more efficient health care system while continuing to deliver the best care for patients everywhere.

Although these examples of Broad research partly demonstrate our commitment to making a difference for the health care industry, they are not exhaustive. As a whole, our academic pursuits help move the needle and enable leaders to truly transform the future of health care.