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Navigating new norms: the value of a healthcare MBA in a post-COVID world

2020 brought extraordinary changes to every sector of the economy. Countless businesses have closed while other industries flourish amid changing market demands. The term ‘new norm’ has become a simple way to encapsulate the changes we have all had to adapt to- lockdowns, masks, small group gatherings. In the workforce, this term is the new shorthand for how and where we work. But in a world of new norms where the business rulebook has been thrown out the window, what is the role of the MBA? To answer this, we’ve turned to the sector on the front lines of the pandemic itself- healthcare.

Written by Lauren Katalinich |

Medical professional instructing students
From employee mental health to self-isolating team members, the pandemic has brought medical issues to the forefront.

Dr Julie Andrews is the healthcare pathway director of the University of London’s Global MBA programme. It’s one of six specialisms on this flexible, fully remote degree and represents a unique opportunity for MBA students to gain an in-depth understanding of the management, governance, and delivery of one of the world’s most crucial sectors.

A practicing infection consultant, and Associate Professor at UCL Medical School, Dr Andrews spoke to us about the changes she has witnessed in her work over the last six months and how this programme is priming students to tackle the challenges of an unpredictable future.

“I’ve been in healthcare for 25 years and I’ve never seen my sector change so quickly in such a short period of time,” Dr Andrews says.

“We’ve had to be agile in terms of skills required to deliver services and learn to work with new technologies. There’s been disruption to the way we train and educate our teams, our trainees, and our patients. We are reliant on technology for all of that.”

Adapting guidelines based on research has been very, very rapid these past few months. Keeping up with that has been a big change. Post-COVID, it is going to be about continuing to deliver services within a challenging healthcare setting.

Clinicians are now using remote consultation technology to continue appointments, she explains. Homecare and home delivery models are being rolled out by pharmaceutical companies so patients can receive medicines without human contact, and the NHS is using Microsoft Teams to communicate internally and with external suppliers. This might sound basic when every workplace is on Zoom, but this is truly a face-to-face industry and it has taken a pandemic to push the highly established healthcare delivery system into adoption.

“Responding quickly to new information and research has been another challenge,” says Dr Andrews.

“Adapting guidelines based on research has been very, very rapid these past few months. Keeping up with that has been a big change. Post-COVID, it is going to be about continuing to deliver services within a challenging healthcare setting.”

But with change comes opportunity. Understanding where this process of change will take the healthcare industry is critically important. Those who will thrive will be on the leading edge, initiating new techniques. Importantly, the multifaceted nature of the healthcare system needs generalists who understand how systems, processes, people and platforms work together. An MBA provides this breadth of knowledge through a broad curriculum with depth through specialism.

“This MBA has even more value post-Covid than it did before because employers are looking for well-rounded people,” says Dr Andrews. “This isn’t just about dealing with the pandemic. It’s about how to manage change. And significant change.”

Mental flexibility, critical thinking, and equipping students with the tools of analysis and adaptation are new priorities for the course. Dr Andrews says this is why a key focus of every module is on transformation and change management. They have also introduced new Covid-related case studies into all of the modules.

In an unpredictable world, a programme that focuses on the predictability of human behaviour- and explores ways to prepare for it- is fundamentally important.

This specialism offers a strategic overview of the whole healthcare sector enabling students to set out strategic direction, vision and a culture for future teams. This framework will be essential in the healthcare system of the future. Human centric technology will be at its core and it can’t be rolled out with just the end-user in mind. The whole value chain must to be evaluated and streamlined to ensure the best delivery of services.

That’s why the Global MBA provides students with a toolkit of hard and soft skills. Critical knowledge of the healthcare sector and its constraints and pressures is just as important as the mental flexibility to adapt to whatever the next decade brings.

“At an individual level, employers are looking for someone with new ideas. They are looking for someone that’s really focused on innovation,” says Dr Andrews.

“But on a broader level- they also need people who have a deep understanding of the fundamentals of healthcare. That’s why all of our modules have a strong theme of safety, governance and resilience. In an unpredictable world, a programme that focuses on the predictability of human behaviour- and explores ways to prepare for it- is fundamentally important.”

Through the strategic project students have the opportunity for hands-on learning and application of their knowledge.

“The project provides a highly practical component to the course as students take their solutions into a workplace to solve a problem. Post-Covid, every sector has seen a dynamic change in what they do. This is an opportunity to test new ideas.”

One thing is certain. Wellbeing is no longer the sole concern of hospitals and clinics. Businesses of every sector are adapting to make sure operational, strategic and financial resources are stretched to cope with the health limitations of the workforce. From employee mental health to self-isolating team members, the pandemic has brought medical issues to the forefront.

“These days, whatever conversation we have, gets back to health quite quickly,” Dr Andrews says. “There aren’t many remote, Global MBAs where you can accredit in health. This is an ideal way to stand-out.”

Find out more about the healthcare specialism and the five other specialist pathways offered on the Global MBA programme.