Tag: healthcare

Alumni in the news

Retired US Air Force veteran Don Halpin, a 2016 graduate of Olin’s Executive MBA program, is the Healthcare Systems Engineer at the Jump Simulation Lab at OSF Innovations in Peoria, IL. He is responsible for supporting socio-technical innovation projects. In this role, he develops new technologies and processes – particularly the incorporation of aviation safety tools into the healthcare arena. Halpin’s second career at “Jump” was recently featured in The Edwardsville Intelligencer.

Don Halpin is a graduate of the USAF Academy with a BS in Electrical Engineering (computer design focus) and a MS in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle University.

Halpin employs forward-thinking best-practices from his 28 years in the Air Force. His final assignment was as the Director of Safety for Air Mobility Command where he was responsible for the flight and ground safety of its 55,000 person operation. He was an airlift and air refueling pilot, capability planner, political-military affairs officer, squadron and wing commander.  Now, he’s applying his knowledge of mobility operations to the medical sector at Jump Simulation, also known as Jump, for short.

Jump, which opened in April 2013, is a collaboration between OSF Healthcare and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, and aims to improve the experience of medical practitioners and patients through education and simulation initiatives. One such initiative includes printing 3-D hearts for cardiovascular surgeons to employ before surgery, an example of the high-tech atmosphere at the innovative company.

Halpin credits his strong family support system and Olin’s Executive MBA program as assets to his work at Jump, where he started working following his retirement from the Air Force. He was actively engaged in the EMBA curriculum, graduating with honors, while also fully engaged in the important work at Jump. Managing work, family and EMBA is a challenging yet rewarding experience for Executive MBA students.

With healthcare positioned as one of world’s most relevant and global industries, Halpin practices the EMBA pledge to take “business knowledge and translate concepts into real world applications,” on a daily basis.

To read more about Halpin’s work, please see the news article from The Edwardsville Intelligencer here.

CATEGORY: Career, News

Boeing Center members had the privilege of touring Express Scripts’ automated prescription fulfillment center and analytics research lab on November 15. The new cutting-edge Technology and Innovation fulfillment center, located in north St. Louis, is one of five such facilities in the country and dispenses up to 110,000 prescriptions each day.

The center is operational 21 hours per day, six days per week, and is almost entirely automated, with the exception of a few humans (around 400 employees in various roles) to make sure that everything runs smoothly. And everything does, indeed, run smoothly.

Photo courtesy of Express Scripts.

Photo courtesy of Express Scripts.

Each pallet of prescription-filled bottles contains a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag that allows the contents to be tracked and sent to the appropriate location. Then, each bottle has its photo taken to ensure precision, and an ultrasound scan measures volume displacement. Before the scripts are shipped out, computer algorithms calculate “porch time,” or distance, traffic, and weather conditions used to determine how much ice and/or gel should be used if the package needs to remain within a certain temperature range.
These quality assurance measures and state-of-the-art technology result in a 99.996% accuracy rate when filling prescriptions bottles, which are distributed to over 70,000 pharmacies all over the United States.

Adjacent to the fulfillment center was the state-of-the-art analytics research lab. Using the data analyzed in the lab, Express Scripts saves its 85 million customers more than $2 billion each year. One way they are able to reduce cost is by negotiating prescription prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers and determining which medications will be included on their formulary, or list of drugs covered under a benefit plan. They also take into account the prescription price index (PPI), which they calculate using data on the number of prescriptions filled per year, as well as the cost paid by benefit plans and consumers. The PPI gives them further insight into price trends of name brand and generic drugs.

The lab also contained a prototype of a vending machine designed to dispense drugs on the spot within a matter of minutes. The machines will use demographic and location information to determine what drugs to stock, and contain a phone that can be used to call a pharmacist. Another innovation in the works is a laser system that etches custom messages on pill bottle caps. These messages range from reminders about renewing prescriptions to invitations to download prescription management mobile apps. The personalized messages are expected to be a welcome update to the age-old “Push Down & Turn to Open” caps.

We are grateful to Express Scripts for inviting us to their campus to see their cutting-edge technology, especially Jan Burkett who organized the event and Susan Lanctot and Kyle Amelung, our tour guides for the evening. Stay tuned to the Boeing Center digital network (@theboeingcenter) for more fresh supply chain content!


On Thursday, November 3, 2016, the Weston Career Center and Health and Life Sciences club held the annual Olin Healthcare Symposium. This flagship event was attended by a variety of graduate students from the full and part-time MBA program, medical school, public health and social work, supply chain management, and Ph.D. program. We also had representatives from Ernst and Young, ECG Management Consultants, The Resource Group, Amitech Solutions, Lumeris, Compass Clinical Consulting, Kindred Healthcare, and ePharmix.

olinThe theme of the symposium was the “Integration of Healthcare Operations in the Transition from Volume to Value-Based Models.” Our keynote speaker was Lee Bernstein, the Regional Executive Vice President of Hospital Operations and Chief Operating Officer of SSM Health. He spoke of current challenges in providing care, adherence to quality programs, and the “survival mode” of the state of hospitals. During the transition model from volume-based to value-based models, Mr. Bernstein emphasized the need to have “a foot in each canoe”—utilizing volume-based models to gather revenue while optimizing the hospital to comply with value-based models.

A panel with representatives from Centene and The Resource Group spoke more of the theme of transition from volume to value. The panel also discussed current healthcare industry trends and news, provided advice to our graduate students on career choice, and made recommendations on how to have a successful healthcare career. Students can potentially join the 15 percent of the previous MBA Class of 2016 that accepted jobs in the Pharma/Biotech/Healthcare Industry.

Here is some career advice that a graduate student should consider:

  • Arvan Chan of Centene advised using a summer internship to determine whether you like working in healthcare or not, and to also be open-minded and flexible when considering various sub-sectors of the healthcare industry.
  • Dr. Amy Poole-Yaeger of Centene expressed that healthcare is very broad, and there are many opportunities available that you can find based on your interests and strengths.
  • KaLeena Thomas of The Resource Group, found that despite her initial disinclination to work on a healthcare consulting project, she found herself working for a health system client in Columbus, Ohio and later realized that the healthcare industry needed individuals who had business acumen, a willingness to solve problems, and a “passion to give back in a bigger way.”
  • KaLeena Thomas echoed Dr. Yaeger’s statements that being in healthcare is “personal”. KaLeena urged “Think about you, think about your parents, your friends, your sisters, and brothers—all of you are going to experience the healthcare system, so we need really smart people that can work in this industry and make it a system that we all want to be a part of.”

The night concluded with a hor d’ouevres and drinks at a networking reception. Our graduate students had an opportunity to ask our speaker and panelists questions. They also connected with special guests from local companies, many of them Olin alumni.

We want to extend special thanks to our keynote speaker and panelists. Thank you for sharing your valuable insights and advice! We appreciate your time and effort in giving back and engaging with the Washington University community.

Guest blogger: Francis Monsada, MBA ’17

New research from Olin sheds light on the relationship between employee benefits and the profitability and competitiveness of small businesses. Ulya Tsolmon, Assistant Professor of Strategy at Olin and her co-authors at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, reviewed data on some 15,000 firms over the 2004−2010 time period—before implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—to compare the labor productivity, employee turnover, profitability, stability, and growth rate of companies that voluntarily offered their employees health insurance and those that did not.

Providing health insurance is typically very costly, especially for small firms. Small firms generally pay more for health insurance per employee than larger firms because they have fewer employees and therefore smaller risk pools. Is the payoff for a small firm worth this investment? How do small businesses that provide health insurance fare compared to their counterparts that do not?

One key finding was that following the economic crisis of 2007, firms that did not offer health insurance lowered employee wages by an average of 25 percent; by contrast, the average wages in firms offering health insurance declined only 5 percent during the same period. Further, firms that did not provide their employees with health insurance laid off a larger percentage of their workforce during the Great Recession than did firms providing health insurance.

In comparison, the group of firms providing health insurance had a much lower employee turnover rate, higher profitability, and higher sales per employee. However, the average growth rate of the group that provided health insurance was lower when compared to the group not providing health insurance.

The cause of this discrepancy? The study results seem to indicate that firms with health insurance enter into an implicit contract with their employees: The firm shields employees from economic downturns but asks them to exert effort and commitment to increase the firm’s performance. However, according to lead researcher Ulya Tsolmon, “firms with health insurance seem to be more cautious than those without health insurance when expanding, as making and keeping commitments to employees is not an easy task, especially during economic downturns.”

This study offers important insights for policymakers—especially with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including the question of whether to expand the employer mandate on health insurance to businesses of all sizes, likely to return to the congressional agenda early in 2017. Inasmuch as 99 percent of all US companies are small businesses that together employ more than 50 percent of US workers, expanding the mandate to require these firms to offer health insurance clearly has the potential to dramatically increase the number of insured Americans. But any such discussion, the researchers note, should include consideration of how a broadened mandate might affect the growth of these small businesses.

Paper title: “Health Insurance and Relational Contracts in Small American Firms,” under review R&R at Strategic Management Journal

Authors: Ulya Tsolmon, Assistant Professor of Strategy, Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis; Dan Ariely and Sharon Belenzon, Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business

Link to more research from Olin faculty.


The Problem: The nursing home market is facing unprecedented growth as the 76 million baby boomers across the United States start to enter retirement. Surprisingly, the majority of these facilities have not sufficiently modernized to meet the challenges brought on by this newfound demand. Specifically, over 50% of nursing homes still use a paper-based system to manage the care of their patients and store their health records. Meanwhile many of those who have switched to an electronic system are tied down by un-intuitive programs with bulky and expensive in-house servers run by companies whose customer service often parallels that of the heavily maligned cable industry.

A Solution: In 2012 BlueStrata EHR was founded as a cloud-based solution to this dire problem. BlueStrata’s digital SaaS (Software as a Service)-model system allows nursing homes to dump their paper systems and expensive servers. The platform enables homes to conveniently access their patient records, medication information, and reporting from anywhere and was built from the ground up with an easy to use interface for nurses and other home employees. Most significantly, BlueStrata is dedicated to delivering best-in-class customer service with on-site on-boarding and implementation, a 24/7 live client support desk, and an online suite of webinars and informational documentation.

The Consultants’ Challenge: Despite BlueStrata’s numerous benefits, marketing and sales dollars are limited. In order to determine how the firm can most efficiently utilize their resources to most effectively reach the largest amount of potential customers, the company has enrolled our help. We are a team of multidisciplinary graduate students from the CELect course at Washington University in St. Louis. CELect is a unique class where students perform consulting projects for start-ups in the St. Louis area as a method of experiential learning while also giving back to the community.

Our group – Robert Bailen, Rachael Lin, Michael Foland, and Tarun Sengar, are working directly with Tony Coco, BlueStrata’s president, to help advise on how to best leverage the benefits of their ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform in a targeted multi-media marketing campaign. Working alongside Mr. Coco and the BlueStrata team has been a great opportunity for us thus far. We have not only been able to witness first-hand how BlueStrata helps homes manage their workflow, but also how they save homes significant amounts of money through increased insurance reimbursements and reduction of human error.

BlueStrata is one of the recent success stories of St. Louis’ burgeoning entrepreneurship scene, which has been driven in large part due to Mr. Coco’s leadership. Mr. Coco was the former director of marketing services and brand management for Victor Technologies, a cutting and welding equipment provider. Victor Technologies was acquired in 2014 by the Maryland-based industrial firm Colfax Corp for $947 million. BlueStrata, meanwhile,  raised $1.66 million from the life science fund of St. Louis venture capital firm Cultivation Capital in August 2015. They’re continuing to grow at a rapid pace and just recently moved into new offices in Creve Coeur to house their increasing number of employees as they continue on their path to help nursing homes nationwide.

Team: Robert Bailen, MBA; Rachael Lin, PMBA; Michael Foland,Law; Tarun Sengar, MBA