MBA Alumna Transforms Healthcare Cutbacks into Process Improvements

July 23, 2012

For Dr. Kimberly May '08, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and rheumatologist at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Northampton, the Isenberg Online MBA has brought greater adaptability and influence in a challenging rural health care environment. May completed all of her MBA courses from 2005-2008 while still in the service. From 2009 until the end of June, May divided her time as a physician between Fairview Internal Medicine in Great Barrington and the Veterans Administration. Fairview, along with Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, belongs to Berkshire Health Care Systems (BHS), the region's dominant provider of comprehensive health care services.


"Practicing medicine in the Berkshires has been challenging," May remarks. "As in many rural areas, there's a critical shortage of primary physicians.   Along with that, there's the constant need to maximize efficiency, control costs, and ensure high-quality medical care. My Isenberg MBA has given me enormous flexibility in handling those demands. Thanks to my online classes, I understand business numbers and the fiscal cycle far better-both are critical in health care management. Every one of my MBA classes came with group projects. In addition to practicing teamwork, we also rotated roles, so I got lots of practice as a team leader and coach."


The rubber hit the road for May last year, when, as BHS' Medical Director of Informatics, she encountered a new set of challenges due to a temporary cutback to the organization's already stressed capacity to accommodate outpatients. But May wasn't fazed.  "I felt confident to deal with the situation at hand. When we rolled out the system last fall, we budgeted for a cutback in service schedules to 50% for the first two to three months," notes May. "It was a challenge, but I felt prepared to lead my team through the transition."


During those weeks, May's team often needed to solve problems on a dime as medical personnel got used to the system. "There are no transcriptionists so doctors and nurses needed to learn to do the data entry themselves," she recalls. "And that's when my Isenberg coaching skills really came in handy."


Looking back, May thinks the experience, although difficult, was worthwhile. "The adjustments we made improved our processes in the long-run. In some ways, we turned an unforeseen challenge into an opportunity to improve efficiencies -- ultimately allowing us to respond more quickly and accurately to outpatient needs."