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The University of Vermont Medical Center

Setting a New Partnership Standard

Norwich University founder, Alden Partridge, wholly believed that students learn best when they are able to participate in real-life opportunities outside of the “traditional” classroom.

Today, Norwich University continues this tradition by offering its graduate students many opportunities for putting theory into practice (often referred to as “experiential learning”) in their workplaces, their communities, and, in the case of The University of Vermont Medical Center (formerly Fletcher Allen Health Care), with a Norwich University partner organization.

For the past two years, Norwich has partnered with The University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM Medical Center), a regional referral center for approximately 1 million people in Vermont and Northern New York and a community hospital for 160,000 residents in nearby Vermont counties, to offer MBA students the opportunity to work on real UVM Medical Center case studies that aim to analyze and improve business practices. Through this partnership, the UVM Medical Center uses the Norwich University online MBA program as a consultancy firm without the billable hours, or other costs, typically associated with such relationships. The students, in turn, gain valuable real-life experience helping a nationally recognized health care organization approach its business challenges in new ways.

Shelley Brown, director of business and partnership development at Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, enthusiastically pursued the relationship with the UVM Medical Center. While most of the College’s partnerships include a tuition discount, reduced fees, and similar benefits, Shelley has begun to expand upon, and even redefine, what it means to be a Norwich partner.  In her view, the ideal partner is an organization, like the UVM Medical Center, that brings their everyday business challenges to Norwich, and Shelley works with the appropriate subject matter experts to find an education or training solution. The benefits of such partnerships extend beyond the enterprise to faculty and students.  

"Norwich graduate students benefit by working on real, live business issues with the UVM Medical Center who, for all intents and purposes, is their client. This is an example of a business value-added at its best," according to Brown.

In 2012 students examined the challenges of the UVM Medical Center's Patient Record and Information Systems Management (PRISM) program, which was designed to transfer paper medical files into an electronic health record, and has put UVM Medical Center among the top 3.5% of US hospitals with a fully integrated electronic health record. They critiqued the implementation of the PRISM project, identified benefits and examined its critical success factors. All told they were able to come up with 120 different assessments of the project to present to UVM Medical Center executives for their consideration.

Although the challenges of the PRISM project were many due to its complexity and the planning, implementation and training required for its launch, for UVM Medical Center the benefits are considerable and they continue to grow. For example, the Medicare and Medicaid EHR (Electronic Health Record) Incentive Programs provide financial incentives for “meaningful use” of certified EHR technology to improve patient care. Not surprisingly, the UVM Medical Center will be tapping in to Norwich MBA students' expertise to analyze the “meaningful use” of PRISM.

 “It is helpful to have bright people working on this type of project so that you get all viewpoints. We are excited for the 'meaningful use' project; having their recommendations is very important. The more people you can get involved with - the best and brightest at Norwich - is valuable, especially in this field,” says Charles Podesta, senior vice president and chief information officer at UVM Medical Center. “It’s like having your own personal think tank with the ability to do analysis for you.”