Growth in the life sciences sector will occur from emerging markets in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Much of this growth will come from serving populations that currently do not access formal healthcare resources such as medicines, vaccines, service consultations, diagnoses, and preventive technologies.
Achieving the projected growth in emerging markets requires in-depth understanding of current constraints in these healthcare delivery systems, as well as the need for partnerships between multiple sectors that offer support and operational efficiency to improve global health. New business models built around operational efficiency offer tremendous potential to both improve people's health worldwide and achieve revenue growth.
With an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, students from a variety of academic backgrounds work together to research and deliver their own solutions for global health inequities.
Students in Center member Ravi Anupindi’s half-semester course on innovation in global health delivery learn about how innovations in business models, strategy, operations, financing, and supply chains are allowing far more people to access better quality healthcare.
The course draws extensively on real-world case studies and the latest research in the field, including experiences and lessons learned from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Class sessions feature thought leaders from the field of global health delivery and involve lively debates on important topics.
Anupindi employs concepts and approaches from strategy, operations, finance, and supply chain management to help students understand the factors that determine success and failure of organizations that seek to provide healthcare to low-income populations. With an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, students from a variety of academic backgrounds work together in teams to research and deliver their own solutions for global health inequities. They use key course concepts to understand what determines the success and failure of businesses that seek to provide healthcare to low-income populations.
Anupindi has done extensive research in supply chain management, risk, sustainability, strategic sourcing, lean operations, and value chains for economic development and health care delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
His current work includes decision models for commodity operations, supply chain risk management, emerging markets supply chains, resource allocation for malaria interventions, and a study of TB treatment models and health market innovations in India.
Anupindi worked in the field of global health supply chains for more than a decade, gaining exposure to the challenges of accessing healthcare in emerging markets and low- and middle-income countries. Anupindi also studied the multiple approaches organizations take to address these issues and thought this breadth of experiences would be of great interest to students.
“My close friend and colleague Prashant Yadav was then at U-M’s William Davidson Institute. We shared common interests and were involved in joint projects. We had been brainstorming ideas on the need to bring these issues of inequity in global healthcare access into the curriculum, so we co-developed this class and co-taught it for three years. Since Dr. Yadav’s departure from U-M, I have been teaching the class by myself,” Anupindi explained.
At the start of the course, students are assigned to teams to formulate strategies and solutions to their unique problem, which they eventually present at the end of the course. Teams are expected to develop a market expansion strategy to achieve revenue growth and improve healthcare access for an assigned clinical area such as diabetes, asthma, dengue, or cardiovascular stents in two emerging markets in Asia and Africa.
“Sometimes my team members would say something and it wouldn’t compute. So we would take a few steps back and use different words to understand each other’s language.”
Teams are made up of students from a variety of disciplines—public health, business, design—one of the more challenging yet rewarding aspects of the course. “Sometimes my team members would say something and it wouldn’t compute. So we would take a few steps back and use different words to understand each other’s language. It was interesting, though, and a huge benefit to see different perspectives within healthcare knowledge and business background,” said Alex Klopp, a first-year MBA student at Ross.
A common experience for students in Anupindi’s class was realizing the need to learn each other’s disciplinary language. “In my team, we tutored each other to understand each other’s lingo. I was helpful to have people to dissect aspects from public health that I had little experience with,” said Denny Lai, a first-year MBA student at Ross
Students soon found that their team’s different perspectives and backgrounds would be their biggest advantage when working on their final project.
Not only were there opportunities to collaborate efficiently by specializing in areas where they had the most knowledge. There were also opportunities to explore new approaches and build new skills by learning from each other’s expertise.
Students experienced what interdisciplinary partnerships look like firsthand while working with their project teams. “As a health behavior and health education student, I wanted to look at the personal experiences of the people we were serving with our market expansion strategy. Business students wanted to look at the stats to see success rates,” said Katie Grandinetti, a second-year master of public health student. “We were able to utilize both approaches by turning surveys into key performance indicators.”
“The different experiences on our team were a strength because everyone brought unique perspectives that were critical for developing a comprehensive solution that met both business and public health needs. We leveraged each other's knowledge, skills, and prior professional experiences to ensure that the solution we put forward in our report and presentation was both feasible and ambitious,” said Avery Waite, a first-year MBA student at Ross.
Multi-Sectoral Approaches to Global Health Equity Challenges
A key objective of the course is to understand the roles played by different industries in the provision of healthcare in emerging markets and the critical value of inter-agency collaboration in this context. “Global health has so many different stakeholders. It’s not one party’s job to address the issues within global health. It’s important to get all partners on the same page to put solutions into action,” said Klopp.
Anupindi strives to help students understand that developing effective, efficient, scalable solutions for delivery of health solutions in emerging markets requires integrating different perspectives from disciplines in public health, business, pharmacy, medicine, engineering, and policy. Working with peers from various disciplinary backgrounds and knowledge allows students to learn how these different perspectives ultimately inform strategy and solution design.
These solutions to the most complex global health equity problems also require navigating partnerships among various stakeholder groups, such as government, private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and community groups.
“Every [global health] solution we solved that produced a great outcome was because of a partnership between different areas [of government, technology, and corporations]. It’s important to focus on governmental and policy solutions but also include corporations in partnerships to create a bigger impact,” said Olivia Rockwell, a Global Health and Management graduate student at the School of Public Health.
“One of the main challenges organizations face is alignment of goals and incentives across different partnerships. I hope students develop an appreciation of the need to work across sectors and the nature of the challenges organizations face in making these ventures successful so they’re better prepared in their professional careers,” noted Anupindi.
Why Students Should Take This Class
According to Anupindi, “Addressing healthcare issues is both a moral imperative and a business opportunity.” To realize this opportunity in these markets, organizations first need to develop a deep understanding of patient barriers to access to care and bottlenecks to the delivery of solutions. Organizations then need to take an ecosystem approach to the design of product and service delivery systems leveraging innovations in technology and business models and engagement of multiple stakeholders.
“Through this course, I hope students develop an in-depth understanding of key issues in designing and managing healthcare delivery and the important role of operations and supply chain management in improving effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare delivery in emerging markets. I also hope they’ll discover high-impact opportunities for social entrepreneurship and operational innovation to improve global health delivery. These skills are important for anyone interested in healthcare in emerging markets regardless of the sector they choose to work in,” said Anupindi.