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Monday, 6 December 2021

Is healthcare management education picking up in Egypt?

Healthcare management education is beginning to show signs of life in Egypt: With the introduction of the government’s universal healthcare scheme and the advent of telehealth services in Egypt, the country’s healthcare industry has been growing and is widely expected to see a transformation in the next several years. And as demand for quality healthcare continues to grow and new trends take hold of the industry, private sector hospitals and facilities find a growing need not just for medical personnel, but also for managerial-level staff that will look at the big picture. These individuals essentially run a medical facility’s “backend,” which includes everything from ensuring a facility is operating within its budget to formulating new strategies to keep up with changes in the market and to tap into potential avenues for growth.

So, what’s the holdup? Becoming qualified to run a hospital or its backend as a hospital manager is far from straightforward, with virtually no unified, institutionalized structure or guidelines to follow for running a hospital in the country. Enter healthcare management education — a still nascent academic major in Egypt — which aims to prepare these aspiring hospital managers and personnel for running a successful hospital.

What exactly is healthcare management education? Programs dedicated to healthcare management are designed to teach aspiring healthcare professionals about healthcare strategy, information systems, finance, supply chain management and operations. They also aim to equip students with tools to address challenges facing managers in the healthcare industry, like how to cope with dynamic competition — especially in a highly fragmented industry such as Egypt’s, wherein the management, financing and provision of care is scattered between a laundry list of different players — and adopt new technologies in a rapidly changing sector.

How nascent is it? The American University in Cairo (AUC) has offered a healthcare management diploma for over a decade, but other colleges and educational institutions only followed suit in recent years. In 2015, the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport and the Children Cancer’s Hospital 57357 introduced a specialized executive MBA in hospital management. ESLSCA Business School also offers a specialization in International Healthcare Management as one of its MBA offerings, and Future University of Egypt (FUE) will introduce its own specialization as of February, FUE President Obada Sarhan told Enterprise. The only undergraduate track for hospital management in Egypt is offered by Misr University for Science & Technology.

The price tag: The postgraduate diplomas range from one to two years in duration and cost between EGP 40-65k per year, depending on the university, the diploma’s accreditation status and how extensive it is. Many of the courses, including AUC’s and FUE’s, take place online, with AUC’s programs integrating 40 hours of field visits to hospitals. Both universities’ tracks are mostly taught by professors of practice, making the courses more practical and hands-on, with real-life examples and cases weaved into the curriculum.

Why are these programs suddenly catching on now? Transformation in the healthcare sector is imminent, especially in terms of digitization and the acceleration of information technology, according to Hesham Abdel Ghaffar, an instructor teaching one of AUC’s healthcare management courses. Telehealth, for one, has surged over the past years, and is expected to burgeon even more in the next few years. This calls for support and training on how to make this shift towards technological advances in healthcare, modern and cooperative medicine and AI, says Abdel Ghaffar. So the shift is incredibly important, especially when the state itself is taking it seriously, with the introduction of the universal health coverage scheme, he adds.

And there’s demand for the programs: There’s a lot of demand for these programs now in Egypt, and FUE’s new diploma is getting a lot of applicants already as the university begins to promote the new specialization ahead of its debut in the upcoming academic semester, Sarhan told us. Classes in AUC’s programs are also seeing waitlists every semester, according to Abdel Ghaffar, especially since the program went online due to covid-19, which made it more accessible both in Egypt and outside the country, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

MDs aren’t the only ones applying for these programs: People from a range of backgrounds can earn their diplomas in healthcare management, including business, economics, finance and pharmacy graduates, Sarhan said. Abdel Ghaffar is also beginning to see a much more diverse range of backgrounds among his students, although medicine graduates are still the majority.

But what difference do these courses really make? For a long time, it was very hard to find someone with a well-rounded skill set and background in management in the healthcare sector to hire for a managerial role at a hospital, explained Cleopatra Hospitals Group IR Director Hassan Fikry. Currently, most people gain experience on the job, and hospitals are upskilling workers themselves. Although managers have long risen to their roles without these diplomas or certificates, the programs are like a launch pad that can make the journey much easier and faster, he added.

Staffing prospects are looking better — and cheaper — with the availability of these programs: Now that there are offerings and a variety of courses offered at different price points, that really helps hospitals develop their staff, whether old or new, with less time and resources, Fikry told Enterprise. On one side of the equation, hospitals are starting to get entry-level candidates already armed with a healthcare management degree and ready to take on the positions. On the other side, mid-level professionals who are still in the learning process and who previously did not have access to learning the ins and outs of healthcare management can now pursue these degrees at any point in their career and be better equipped to climb the ranks. Altogether, the equation will yield more individuals in the industry with a deeper-rooted understanding of healthcare management, which will be a boon for the industry’s growth in the long run, Fikry said.


Your top education stories for the week:

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  • Using scientific research for manufacturing: The Higher Education Ministry’s Electronics Research Institute signed a cooperation agreement with Siraj Lighting Company and the Industrial Modernization Centre to help develop longer-lasting LED light bulbs.

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