Each New Class Brings Opportunity

Robert Huckman
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Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Business Administration
“With each new class comes a variety of opportunities around the case, which adds to the richness of the teaching and learning experience.”

Robert S. Huckman, Professor of Technology and Operations Management, serves as the faculty co-chair of the HBS Health Care Initiative. He describes the Health Care Initiative as “an ideal opportunity for students, faculty, and alumni to build a vibrant and diverse community knit together by a shared interest in improving the health care system.”

Driven by innovation in the delivery of health care, Huckman maintains that these challenges are incredibly complex and require significant time and effort to improve quality and decrease costs. He asserts that the patterns of dissemination across the health care market suggest that there are ways to enhance operating performance. “With the rash of big data available in health care,” Huckman emphasizes, “we have to ask ourselves the following: What do we do with this data, how much can we share, and are there ways to interpret the data that will render more valuable solutions?” He acknowledges that, while there are a lot of great ideas out there, the real challenge will come down to execution and this is where research coming out of business schools can contribute.

Huckman also postulates that there is significant work to be done to make individuals more educated when making health care decisions. “Let’s face it,” he said during the HBS Health Care Forum, “we’ve long had our clinical decisions in the hands of physicians who have had, in most cases, at least seven years of post-baccalaureate medical training. These are often technical decisions that can be very nuanced. So how do we help consumers have a role in the decision-making when the information is so complex? The key is not just to get the information to the consumers, but to help them process it as well.”

As a professor at HBS, Huckman sees his role as trying to create structure among 80 different opinions in the classroom. “It’s a privilege and a challenge to facilitate case discussions,” he says. “The benefit of the case approach versus lecturing is that even when I’ve taught the case before, I don’t know exactly how it will go. With each new class comes a variety of opportunities around the case, which adds to the richness of the teaching and learning experience.”