A healthy collaboration

The inspiration to house the faculties of Management and Health Sciences in Markin Hall has already begun to generate important inquiry through cross-disciplinary collaboration. It has brought together great thinkers and masters of knowledge to tackle some of society's most complex issues.

Dr. Helen Kelley, associate professor of Information Systems in the Faculty of Management, and Dr. Claudia Steinke, assistant professor in both Management and Health Sciences, have launched a well-timed research project that, once complete, may have far-reaching significance in the health-care industry.

Kelley, whose research broadens out into areas such as e-health and change management, says she has always had an interest in health care and how change occurs.

Dr. Helen Kelley, left and Dr. Claudia Steinke work in different faculties but their collaborative work may lead to inspired solutions down the road.

"Certainly, how you manage change and create cultures within the health-care environment is very important. Leadership is key, as is developing cultures that align with the vision that is being established by decision makers here in Alberta."

Kelley says establishing a vision requires buy-in from an entire organization. The very nature of health care sets it apart in many ways from other organizations, not only because of its sheer size and breadth, but also because of the nature of caring for individuals, life-and-death situations and the fast-paced environment.

Steinke's background as an emergency room nurse drew her to the project.

"My experience evolved as a result of being both a recipient and a provider of health-care services in the emergency department. My interests are in applying a service management perspective to the design of service in health care. I focus on the structure, process and outcomes of designing for service excellence in health care."

Steinke says the bottom line is to impact and improve the quality of health-care services being delivered to people, and that begins with improving the quality of the working environment for staff.

"Employees will deliver excellent service to clients when the organization provides them with the resources necessary to deliver excellent service – and when the organization treats them as it would want them to treat customers. Currently, this is not happening in many of the organizations in health care for various reasons."

Educators across Canada and the United States are recognizing the need to offer health-care providers management knowledge, Kelley says. And "having the two disciplines housed in the same building provides more opportunity for those conversations and discussions to start to percolate and bloom."

Kelley and Steinke agree both disciplines need to work together to influence the efficiency and effectiveness of the health-care system.

"The problems in health care are not going to be solved if we continue to work in silos," Steinke explains. "We need a joining of the minds from a number of fields – we need to prepare our students to become leaders and managers in health care who think differently, innovatively, act responsibly and have a broader mindset. We need to foster a culture that thrives on service excellence and we have an opportunity here to promote this within our undergraduate and graduate programs."