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The success of Tufts Health Care Institute’s Mini-Rotation as a valuable educational experience owed a great deal to the contributions of our partner, Tufts Health Plan (THP). As a health insurance company THP provides innovative, high-quality health care coverage in the commercial, Medicare and Medicaid/subsidized markets. It offers members and employers an array of health management programs, which support evidence-based approaches to health and wellness.

While THCI was fortunate to have a health plan as a partner, other types of organizations might also serve this role: e.g., integrated delivery systems, provider organizations, and/or public agencies.

Whether you choose to teach health care system topics in a concentrated seminar or in a more distributed series of sessions, the partnership model brings several benefits to the academic sponsor and its learners, as outlined below.

Content Expertise: The subjects taught in THCI’s course are outside the usual, more clinically focused domains of academic medicine’s teaching and training programs. Health plans typically embrace population health, implement broad-based quality and care management programs, address cost pressures and cost-effectiveness from multiple perspectives, and relate to constituencies across the health care system, e.g., employers, providers, patients, regulators. Therefore, including representatives of health plans as partners on your Systems-based Practice curriculum planning team can help identify important and emerging topics to include in the course agenda.

Course Faculty: The partner organization can help recruit faculty whose professional responsibilities align with the goals and topics of the course. A local organization can recommend its own managers and staff, and it is likely to be familiar with appropriate colleagues in other local groups and agencies. For their part, professionals in these organizations tend to enjoy the opportunity to teach and engage with medical students and residents. For more on this topic, see the discussion on Faculty Recruitment and Engagement.

Learner Knowledge and Attitudes: Based on pre- and post-assessments of knowledge and attitudes, THCI found that residents’ exposure to the faculty and materials from our partner organizations increased their knowledge and broadened their perspectives about the larger health care system. Residents learned about the health plan’s goals, pressures, and strategies to impact quality and cost. They heard from physician and other clinical managers how these professionals view their jobs as an extension of their roles as clinicians, and how their career paths evolved. For the residents, the experience broke down the “us/physicians vs. them/insurers” perspective that they might have held before the course and increased the likelihood of mutual understanding going forward.

Meeting Facilities: THCI conducted the Mini-Rotation in meeting space provided by Tufts Health Plan. This arrangement reinforced the educational goal of teaching the residents about the health care system beyond the boundaries of clinical practice settings. It also reinforced our requirement that residents be excused from their clinical duties on seminar days in order to be fully present at the course. Finally, holding the course on the THP premises afforded access to multiple meeting rooms, audio-visual staff and equipment, and printing and copying services free of charge.