Interview by Constandinos Tsindas
The pandemic has forced professionals to look at more effective, faster collective management methods and realise that multi-dimensionality must be part of a modern healthcare system. Dr Neophytos Karamanos, Programme Coordinator of the Master of Science in Health Services Administration (MHSA) at the University of Nicosia Medical School, believes that innovation and technology can place patients where they should be; right at the heart of services.
These are dynamic times for the Health Services Administration Sector as a result of the pandemic and technological change. Can professionals in the field rise to the occasion and propose more effective ways of making the system work for people?
We live in very challenging times as far as the entire health services sector is concerned. New innovative approaches and technologies are fundamentally reshaping the sector. Telemedicine, artificial intelligence and big data analysis, real-time patient monitoring through wearables and blockchain are merely examples of the new technologies being introduced.
The pandemic, among other factors, accelerated the rate of change and has highlighted the need for effective crisis management. Knowledge on how pandemics spread within a population, evaluation of measures which could limit such spread, an understanding of how hospital settings and facilities should be structured to increase effectiveness and ensure the safety of both patients and healthcare practitioners, an understanding of how technology could be of assistance, even basic skills about drawing up crisis management plans and redistributing resources are all essential competencies needed in order to effectively cope with the pandemic.
When there is so much change and a need for new competencies, it is a signal to return to education and facilitate personal development to meet the greater needs of the public. And this is exactly where the novel and modern MHSA programme aims to improve: providing the essential skills to health services professionals in these critical, developing areas.
Where does innovation come in when it comes to cooperation across different disciplines?
Innovation management is extremely difficult. You need to achieve the collaboration of several partners (e.g. hospitals, healthcare groups, insurances, universities, research centres, biotech and government) in order to develop new innovations. The real challenge however remains to embed new innovations in the processes and systems of your organization and turn them into everyday practice. The new MHSA programme places special emphasis on innovation management and entrepreneurship. It also challenges students to pursue advanced initiatives to address existing problems in their current work environments through the development of business plans and the implementation of field projects.
What is the role of emerging technologies and innovation in building those working relationships towards a more patient-centred health services system?
I would say that developments here are truly exciting. New technologies and innovations enable a more personalized approach for patients and also individuals managing their wellness. The emphasis continues on treatment and increasingly on preventive medicine. The ability to collect real-time information about a person’s health and physical condition, dietary habits, the monitoring of someone’s biomarkers including genetic predisposition, all enable healthcare services to provide more personalized treatment, counselling and coaching towards improving health and well-being. The ability to collect, analyse and cross-relate extensive patient health data, including relating this information with the data of the larger population, enables the calculation of health risks and scores at an individual basis, leading to corrective actions and improvement.
How has technology use altered the health service sector, considering the pandemic?
The pandemic has manifested how new technologies have the potential to transform health services. Telehealth usage rose sharply and mobile apps were used for social distancing and contact detection. Artificial Intelligence applications aided treatment discovery efforts.
When it comes to the MHSA programme, this course is offered fully online benefitting from UNIC’s experience as the first university globally to receive triple accreditation for its online learning quality. Harnessing global experience in the digital platform is an essential part of the MHSA so that students benefit from leaders and experts with real-life experience in combating pandemics.
What is your own background and what do you think this experience brings to the University of Nicosia MHSA?
I come from a business and technological background, with experience on how organizations can innovate and transform themselves during periods of dramatic change, such as this one. The very design of the MHSA places significant emphasis on how change can be practically embedded into organizations through innovation and entrepreneurship.
How does e-learning work in practical terms for a degree as Health Services Administration?
The e-learning mode of programme delivery presents several advantages for the busy professionals who will be interested to pursue an MHSA degree. Firstly, there is no location constraint and the programme can be attended from anywhere in the world. The majority of the programme’s activities are asynchronous and the students can undertake them when their schedule permits. The few synchronous activities are also recorded and can be attended offline. Interactivity (teacher-to-students, student-to-student and student-to-material) is continuously built into the programme’s activities and webinars so that group learning and sharing of experiences is achieved.
What are the advantages of the Medical School online programmes?
The University of Nicosia is a regional leader in distance learning education at the Bachelor and Master level. It is the first university in Europe to have received a triple recognition for excellence in online education by:
- QS Stars (5 stars): It is one of only 14 universities in the world to-date that has been awarded a 5-Star rating
- The European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU): The university is a recipient of the E-xcellence label
- The European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning (EFQUEL)
The University offers students a state-of-the-art online platform, supported by experienced academics who employ the latest pedagogical approaches for online learning. The learning platform is supported by engineers who work to provide timely support. The 2020 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings, ranked the University of Nicosia (UNIC) as the number 42 university in the world in the core area of Quality Education,
Looking to the future, what are the lessons to be learned, and how can we prevent the same mistakes?
The future will be inevitably be different from the past as the whole health services sector is being radically transformed by new technologies and approaches. Yet the past and its lessons are also critical. Take the pandemic; humanity has witnessed a number of pandemics like, for instance, the Spanish influenza which taught us the value of wearing masks, social distancing, school closures, prohibition of social gatherings. Yet, in responding to Covid-19, many countries were late to implement effective measures while early warning signals were ignored. The world is more vulnerable today due to global connectivity.
The importance of providing timely and accurate information to the public must also be stressed. Contradictory views (even from experts) traversed instantly across the globe adding to the public’s confusion. The role of WHO and other formal health bodies is critical towards coordinating the protection efforts and providing accurate information.
How can we implement health services management for the people?
The ongoing developments in the sector allow placing patients and individuals at the centre of services. Working in the health services, our role is to continue to innovate to meet the varying needs of patients, as technology and research expands globally.
Treatment will be complimented by prevention and lifestyle medicine with increasingly personalized services through collection and correlation of a massive amounts of patient data, including data collected from wearable health devices. We can anticipate expanded use of a person’s biomarkers including genetic predisposition and enabling of behaviour change to reduce health risk. All of these point towards a brighter health-related future.
For more information about the MHSA programme at the University of Nicosia Medical School visit www.med.unic.ac.cy/education/master-health-administration-mhsa/