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A strategic and collaborative approach to healthcare delivery

The Affordable Care Act changed how the U.S. healthcare system will function. But according to Timothy Hoff, a newly appointed associate professor of management, healthcare systems, and health policy, one imperative remains: the need to think both collaboratively and strategically in restructuring healthcare delivery.

“The healthcare reform law didn’t change that reality, it only advanced it,” said Hoff, who holds joint appointments in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. “There are many views taken into account around the healthcare policy table—there’s the patient, there’s the clinician, and there’s the organization—and everyone has to begin to realize we’re working with a fixed pool of resources, and that we don’t have the system yet in place for meeting the needs of health reform. These two realities will shape what it is we have to do.”

Hoff studies health professionals and how business thinking and principles apply to healthcare systems. In particular, he explores the area of primary care, a system already strained by a growing elderly population and one expected to see a massive surge in demand under new federal and state healthcare reforms. He has written several op-eds and scholarly articles on the transformation of the American healthcare system, including a recent commentary for the American Journal of Managed Care.

“In primary care, there are not enough physicians to meet the need, especially after giving millions more people access to insurance under healthcare reform, and placing greater emphasis on keeping individuals healthy,” Hoff said. “We must make some very real and profound changes to that part of the system.”

For instance, structural changes in the delivery of primary care may include empowering pharmacists and nurses to make doctors’ decisions. “There won’t be enough doctors and traditional practices to go to,” Hoff explained, noting the potential rise of walk-in clinics in supermarkets and pharmacies.

Prior to joining the Northeastern faculty, Hoff was an associate professor at the University at Albany, SUNY, where he also earned his doctorate in public administration and policy. He said he chose Northeastern in part because of its commitment to health-related research and initiatives and its strong ties to the healthcare community in Boston and Massachusetts, which enacted similar healthcare legislation several years before the federal government.

“The Boston area is the center of the U.S. healthcare universe,” said Hoff. “The state is doing a lot of things we’re going to expect the rest of the country to do down the road. It’s a real leader on the national stage.”

Hoff looks forward to working with students in a variety of disciplines, a collaborative approach that will define how healthcare functions in the future. “I think there’s great benefit that comes from bringing in a lot of different perspectives—business, public health, clinical, consumer—and having a real, holistic dialogue about how to improve healthcare,” Hoff said.

“There’s no doubt we can do a lot of things better, and business ideas and innovations will certainly help,” he added. “But that relationship between the patient and the provider must always be at the center of what everyone is thinking about.”

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