A New Paradigm in Health Care Curriculums: The Pharmaceutical and Health Care Business Degree

Article excerpt

The rapid growth of the healthcare industry, and the need to operate more efficiently in this environment, has generated an unmet need for competent business professionals with knowledge of the health care sciences. Additionally, student demand for a business curriculum that would satisfy the needs of the health care industry has provided the impetus for the development of the B.S. Pharmaceutical Health Care and Business program (PHCB). The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the evolution of this innovative curriculum within a school of Pharmacy, and to assess student satisfaction with the current PHCB program. To that end, a 19-item online questionnaire was developed and a group of 56 graduates (2007-2009) were surveyed which resulted in a response rate of 80%. The findings of this study indicated there was an overall high level of student satisfaction with this curriculum with an average of 86%, and that the PHCB program may offer potential to prepare graduates for the business and managerial aspects in the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, hospital and other allied health care segments. J Allied Health 2011; 40(3):e45-e48.

SINCE INSTITUTIONS have existed, businesses have sought to maximize their profits and the health care industry is no exception. The health care industry, which in the 21st century, is characterized by rapid growth, intense competition, high drug development costs and cost containment, continues to search for ways to become more efficient.

The rate of growth in the health care industry in the U.S. over the last 5 years has been staggering, from $1.98 trillion in 2005 to a projected $2.5 trillion in 2010, which represents a 30% increase.1Over the next 5 years, this number is projected to grow to $3.44 trillion for a 34% increase.1 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care industry added 363,000 jobs in 2008, and is projected to add approximately 3.2 million new health care jobs between 2008 and 2018 which represents a 22% increase.2

The first factor contributing to this growth in the health care industry is the aging baby "boomer" population, those individuals who were born between 1946 and 1964. There are approximately 77 million baby boomers with the first "wave" reaching age 65 in 2011.3 According to the Census Bureau by the year 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 years of age or older. This age group is projected to increase to 88.5 million by 2050, which represents more than a two-fold increase since 2008.4

The expectations of this aging population and their demands with regard to health care are much greater than previous generations. While this group is expected to live longer due to better health care, they will suffer more chronic diseases due to an unhealthy lifestyle.5 These chronic diseases include cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia. The projected increase in these chronic diseases will contribute to the growth of the health care industry. Another phenomenon is that individuals who are 85 years of age or older are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, and are expected to triple their numbers between 2008 and 2050.5 Better technology and therapeutics will be needed to provide more efficient and cost-effective methodologies, which will play a major role in the continued growth and success of the industry. With this projected growth, the need for highly trained professionals will accelerate.

Secondly, the increasing competitive environment, in both the domestic and international health care arenas, has exerted downward pressure on pricing. Proprietary drugs are facing increasing competition from lower priced generic entries, as well as from international market forces, particularly India and China.6 As greater number of lower priced generic drugs enter the marketplace, it is imperative that U.S. companies find ways to increase their efficiency as a means to maintain profit margins. Thirdly, increasingly high drug development costs add to the sense of urgency to become more efficient. …