To help prepare the next generation of health care leaders for the shift to data-driven care, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recently launched an accredited master’s degree program in health delivery science. Students work alongside front-line staff at the 958-bed academic medical center, applying classroom lessons about data analytics, health technologies and performance measurement to improve patient care and lower costs. 

“Cedars is serious about transforming itself into a value-based health care deliverer,” says Program Director Brennan Spiegel, M.D. That includes collecting, measuring and thoroughly understanding all relevant data and then acting on the results.

The inaugural class of 19 includes physicians, nurses, pharmacists and health care administrators, who will do work in four core areas: health informatics, data analytics, health care financing and performance improvement.

“We’re bringing in experts from different health systems, and even different industries, to [help students] understand what value looks like across the spectrum,” says Spiegel, who teaches a health analytics class in the program. For example, students learn how to conduct cost-effectiveness analyses using computer software. They also work with the latest digital health innovations, such as wearable biosensors, therapeutic virtual reality and smartphone apps.

“We’re teaching hands-on skills that employees can bring directly to their jobs,” Spiegel adds. The program prepares students for careers in expanding health care fields, such as big data analytics, mobile health, health economics, performance improvement and health technology assessment. 

The first class of students is slated to graduate in May 2019, and Associate Director Michelle Keller is excited about the program’s potential and the new skills that the graduates will bring to Cedars-Sinai and to health care in general. “I think there’s so much we can do in terms of improving patient health care given the vast amounts of data we have,” she says.

Similar graduate programs are being offered at other educational institutions. For instance, Dartmouth College began a master's degree program in health care delivery science in 2011. Spokesman George Newcomb says health care CEOs, chief medical officers, U.S. Senate staffers, insurance industry executives and others participate in Dartmouth’s program because they “want to understand the [health care] environment better so they can deliver better health care.”