Seeking to improve the health care industry in hospitals, businesses, even surgery

New MIT Sloan Health Care Certificate attracts students in search of hands-on learning

March 5, 2014

Sara Dolcetti at Massachusetts General Hospital

Sara Dolcetti at Massachusetts General Hospital

Last fall, Sara Dolcetti and two classmates watched surgeons at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass. perform a heart ablation, a minimally invasive procedure to treat abnormal heart rhythms.

Dolcetti wasn’t there to examine the procedure or the patient. Instead, she watched as doctors and their staff conducted the surgery. She looked for process inefficiencies, communication barriers, and software challenges.

Commissioned by GE Healthcare to investigate the value of a still-in-development IT product for cardiac unit doctors and staff, the student team was assembled through Health Care Lab, an MIT Sloan Action Learning program that matches teams with organizations to work on complex problems in the health care industry.

Dolcetti is also pursuing the MIT Sloan Health Care Certificate, which was launched last year and may be pursued by any student in an MIT degree program.

“GE was excited to have us because we applied a pragmatic and analytical approach to identify trends that their team had missed and point out gaps in their design concepts, in advance of them devoting significant time or money to the effort,” said Dolcetti, a member of the 2015 class of Leaders for Global Operations, MIT’s dual degree engineering and MBA program.

The MIT Sloan team also visited doctors and staff at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass. They interviewed and surveyed surgeons and staff, created customer personas, identified unmet needs, and reported back to GE Healthcare, debriefing with the product manager and a senior vice president in the company’s cardiology IT department who, Dolcetti said, remarked that the team “uncovered incredible insights that will help us greatly in building a product that will meet the mark.”

Start to finish, the project lasted eight weeks.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” Dolcetti said, “as we helped alter the course of their product design and gained exposure to the healthcare IT industry.”

Janet Wilkinson, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan who helped to develop the health care certificate curriculum, said projects like Dolcetti’s work with GE Healthcare give students the perspective they need to have an impact on the health care industry.

“It’s critical for us not to do all our work in the ivory tower, but spend much of our time in the field,” Wilkinson said. “We’re a mission-driven school, and we’re very focused on creating principled leaders who go out into the world.”

Fourteen students are pursuing the certificate in its first year, though Wilkinson expects that number to rise as more students across MIT learn about the program and work toward advancing their careers in health care.

In 2013, MIT Sloan launched the Initiative for Health Systems Innovation. The initiative brings more than 30 MIT Sloan faculty members conducting health care-related research together with physicians, hospitals and care organizations, policymakers, and industry leaders in pharmaceuticals, insurance, and other health care related fields.

This semester, Dolcetti is embarking on an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she’s working with MIT Sloan professor Retsef Levi, a leader in improving hospital scheduling, creating efficiency for doctors and staff and reducing patient wait times. Dolcetti will work to develop a tool to help the hospital estimate and plan bed demand.

“I’m passionate about health care and about improving the delivery of patient care,” Dolcetti said. “MIT has an incredible array of courses in health care and also incorporates health care cases and topics in other areas such as entrepreneurship, finance, and strategy so that we see the industry from a variety of perspectives.”