The Columns

Renee Pratt Receives Fulbright Grant to Study IT in German Hospitals

— by on May 16th, 2012

Renee M. Pratt, assistant professor of business administration at Washington and Lee University’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, has been awarded a Fulbright Foreign Scholarship grant to conduct research in Potsdam, Germany, during the winter term of the 2012-13 academic year.

Pratt’s research in Germany will focus on the integration of computer technology in health care organizations. She chose to conduct research in Germany because it has multiple forms of health care formats, including one that is close to the way the United States health care system is organized.

“I’m trying to understand what Germany has done with its information technology (IT) system and how it’s working. It’s one of the countries that are top notch at using it. Granted, other countries like the Netherlands and Sweden do a fabulous job with IT as well, but they don’t have a health care system that is similar to ours in the United States,” said Pratt.

Pratt’s specialty is management information systems and, in particular, large enterprise systems used mainly by businesses and corporations that serve the entire company. “In the business world they’ve actually had a fairly high failure rate—anywhere from 60 to 80 percent—and since these systems cost millions of dollars we can’t afford to continue to have such high failure rates. These failures are mainly due to poor planning/management, change of goals midway, and lack of business management support. Hence people have been studying these high failure rates for the past few years,” she said.

Now that the health care system in the United States is moving towards using IT systems such as centralized patient records, Pratt said that questions need to be asked, such as how do you implement these systems with low or zero failure rate and how do you get everyone involved in the process and manage security in such a dynamic and high-velocity environment. “Researchers have begun to study these questions and realized that there are better ways to implement these systems into the dynamic and changing health care system, such as not only having management support, but also including the doctors, nurses, and other staff in developing the system so that it works for everyone. But we haven’t focused much on what’s happening once the system is in place. If you talk to doctors, nurses and patients in the United States, many of them are not satisfied with how the system works and how or what information is being tracked, recorded, or reported,” she said.

Pratt has been focusing her research on the ways in which U.S. hospitals use information technology. “I’ve been going to hospitals to see what their implementation and post-implementation processes have been like and helping them address concerns. That research was supported by a Lenfest Grant last summer as well as one for this summer,” she said. By examining the German methods, Pratt wants to investigate the successes in their healthcare information systems model, create standards for successful pre- and post- implementation in hospitals (in the United States, as well as other countries), and compare the differences between traditional and non-traditional enterprise systems.

“Once I’ve collected the data I’ll write research papers and hopefully get that information out to hospitals and other organizations so they can start to take the same types of steps,” said Pratt.

During her research, Pratt will be working with colleagues at the University of Potsdam. “I’ll not only be gathering information for the United States, but also seeing what I can do to help Germany, so the idea is that I’ll be writing papers for both Germany and the United States,” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning something new and getting involved with a different group and culture. Getting the chance to work with researchers in Germany will be extremely exciting. They do a lot of work on enterprise systems in general, so it will be really great to see the inner workings of systems.”

Pratt said she was grateful for the support of Larry Peppers, dean of the Williams School, and Denny Garvis, the Haight Professor of Business Administration and department head. “They have been extremely supportive and have been available whenever needed for assistance with application, questions and anything having to do with the process. I am very thankful to be a part of the Williams School and work with such thoughtful individuals. They continue to support my efforts and needs while I gather my materials for the trip and while I am away in Germany,” she said.

“Professor Pratt’s Fulbright Fellowship in Germany will allow her to extend her domestic research on health care organizations into an international arena. This has become an important issue as hospitals have attempted to offset cost increases with gains in productivity. This is a great research opportunity for her,” said Peppers.

Pratt is one of approximately 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. The Fulbright Program, America’s flagship international educational exchange program, is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Established in 1946, the program operates in over 155 countries worldwide

Pratt received her B.S. from the University of Florida and her MS-MIS from Case Western Reserve University. She obtained her Ph.D. from Florida State University.

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