UCLA Anderson’s Health Care Technology Course Is “All About Disruption”


Jennifer McCaney keeps current as an advisor in the health sector
 
Professor Jennifer McCaney

Professor Jennifer McCaney holds a dual appointment at Anderson and the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonology and Critical Care. She is also the co-executive director of UCLA Biodesign, a new joint interdisciplinary initiative led by UCLA Health, Geffen and Anderson that promotes leadership and entrepreneurship in health care technology.


  • McCaney’s UCLA Anderson class focuses on how technology has enabled health care to evolve
  • The course explores technologies such as big data, digital health and personalized medicine
  • As events outpace case studies, guest speakers keep material up to date

McCaney believes health care is at inflection point, and that the industry — in all its facets, from the technological to the social — impacts us throughout our lives. She has advised and interacted with hundreds of early-stage companies in the health care sector. She’s garnered a lens through which to develop UCLA Anderson’s Health Care Technology course, which identifies key challenges and issues in that essential space. McCaney says she loves teaching the course because it’s all about health care disruption.

One of her challenges is ensuring that the course stays current with what’s going on in the real world. “Health care is changing so fast, sometimes case studies are not keeping up with where we are in the health care sector,” she says. To stay up to the minute, McCaney supplements the course material with guest speakers and her own experience as a consultant.

Q: What are the origins of your Health Care Technology course?

I started developing and teaching this course in 2014, and one of the things I like most about teaching it is that I change the curriculum every year. Health care is changing even faster in response to COVID-19, as is the disruption of the health care system that we’ve seen alongside other industries. One of the things I focus the class on is how technology has enabled health care to evolve.

Q: Is “health care technology” something like a new laser used to remove a tumor, or are we are talking about big data collection and personal medicine?

It is a good clarifying question because there is technological change happening across health care and across the pharmaceutical, biotech and medtech industries. Health care tech focuses on the drivers of this, and we need to think about technological change and business model change together. They are pretty much linked now.

We explore technologies such as big data, digital health, and personalized medicine. Then we ask, what are the business model changes that also enable this technology to be successful? For example, the technology underlying electronic medical record-keeping has been around forever. But since the advent of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 people are innovating around the business model associated with having access to push and pull electronic data — the health data, if you will — and that is what is really transformational and in part why, from a venture capital perspective, digital health has eclipsed traditional medical device funding. The data become the core of the business model and the novel technology is driven by the algorithms that interface with the health care provider or patient or both.

Q: What are some of the assignments or the projects in the course?

The course reader changes every year and is a combination of the major trends or technologies on the horizon, or those that are continuing to impact health care.

Assignments have shifted over the past few years and might include providing a proposal for a new technology area. This year, it shifted to a blog-based format, and I think we might continue that for 2021. Health care changes so rapidly, we are writing about very topical issues. The issues that we discuss in class are the headlines within the industry, so I think it is important to get the Anderson student view. The pieces we’re writing are geared toward a wider audience.

The key opinion leadership in the industry has become more accessible. We are building a health care tech blog. This prepares students to think about things like, “What is my social media presence? What does my LinkedIn presence look like? Can I go write for Tech Crunch one day? Could I write for Fast Company or Forbes?”

There is a team component focused on a team-authored blog or paper. A presentation at the end of the course is really an opportunity to coalesce different views. We are so fortunate, in the Anderson community, to have students from so many different industries coming into our classes. Physicians, consultants and financial analysts can all come together on one team.

Q: What is the general career path for MBA students who take this course?

In general, we see that the role of the health care provider is changing. Health care systems have innovation arms, they have venture capital groups, they have traditional administration and operation responsibilities, and they also have a lot of tangential interactions within the ecosystem, through outreach and community and public health. Those are all different career paths within a potential health system.

Many large insurers have innovation groups or accelerators that evaluate new-stage technologies. They do pilots in house, through their insured population. If you are selling to a provider, you have to be able to evaluate and show metrics. In health care tech, we evaluate those frameworks. You are going to bring in a new digital health solution: What is the framework? How are you going to know if it is successful or not in your patient population? Some payer venture groups are aligned to the specific needs of their health care system. Some are more aligned to the needs of the greater population.

Health care is deeply personal. As individuals, we all have our own interactions with health care through family members, through our own care needs. It touches everything. Students interested in health care careers are now saying, “I’m not just going to go work at Amgen or Medtronic or a traditional life science manufacturer. I can go to Google. I can go to Amazon. I can go to Walmart. I can go to CVS.” The number of career opportunities in health care has certainly increased exponentially.

Q: How do you keep it current in an evolving academic and real-world milieu?

The way the class is currently organized, each session is devoted to a particular technology article. One week, we look at EMRs and health IT, the next week we look at next-generation sequencing. We follow the technology and ask, Who is using the technology? What is the business model? What is the technology-enabled service offering?

COVID-19 has really highlighted many of the weaknesses in the infrastructure as it relates to health care. One of the biggest incongruities is health equity and underlying disparities in care. Socioeconomic factors don’t just affect chronic disease, they affect health care as a whole.

As a community or a nation or a global population, we are going to have to increase emphasis on those parts of health care. The class is broken into technology modules, and I added a new module last year: femtech. Femtech is the development of technologies that specifically address women’s health care issues. We invited a venture capital investor who had invested in a women’s health company at the intersection of infertility, next-generation sequencing and consumer health. Alongside the investor was the female founder and CEO of the company. That was just a fantastic session and, by far, the most popular blog topic in the class last year. It is great to see that, when you bring in a new module, it is warmly received because the students recognize that it’s high-interest and relevant.

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