The Thomas P. Ference Health System Simulation

The objective of The Thomas P. Ference Health System Simulation is to provide an opportunity to experience the challenges of executive leadership and strategic decision-making of a competitive multi-hospital marketplace. This is a realistic exercise that effectively simulates the complexity and intensity of the evolving hospital environment.

How it Works

Participants collaborate in this comprehensive strategic exercise as the executive leadership team of a community hospital. As hospital executives, they must analyze their institution’s overall strategic direction and make all decisions central to its successful operation including mission/vision, service line mix, capacity, investment in quality (professional/clinical, systems, etc.), patient/payer mix, marketing, staffing, financial structure, and so on. 

A typical “run” of the simulation involves four teams strategically guiding their hospitals through a competitive marketplace. Teams submit decisions for each operating cycle simultaneously and receive prompt feedback on their hospital’s performance in the context of its competitors and then proceed to prepare decisions for the next operating cycle. The simulation exercise usually involves six full operating cycles and takes roughly an evening and two days, including supporting instructional modules, strategic financial analysis, and feedback/discussion sessions.

Why a Simulation?

Simulations are a well-tested and effective means of instruction that have been employed in management education within business schools and industry since the late 1950s. They range from simple exercises such as in-baskets to comprehensive exercises in functional areas including marketing, finance and operations to complex total organizational models such as the Thomas P. Ference Health System Simulation. 

The health system simulation, which involves developing and implementing overall institutional strategy, is offered by the Mailman School of Public Health. Simulation evaluations reflect the consensus that participants find simulations to be the most powerful learning activities they have experienced. Follow-up studies and surveys reinforce this, particularly with regard to improved strategic decision-making “on-the-job” and teamwork and leadership competencies.

How is This Utilized at Columbia University?

Health system simulation is a valuable instructional component of the Department of Health Policy and Management portfolio. The simulation will be an integral part of the full-time, executive, and part-time curricula. In addition, it is a component of the department’s Executive Education initiatives, either as a stand-alone workshop or as a component of a larger program. Specific examples would be as a module in the Leadership Development Program that is conducted for department chairs at P&S, as an offering to management teams at hospitals and other provider institutions, and as a public or open workshop program for individual professionals. 

Can Anyone Enroll in the Thomas P. Ference Health System Simulation?

The health system simulation is available as a stand-alone workshop, a component of a larger program for individuals and groups working in hospitals and clinical facilities internationally or as a custom program. It has been used as a module in leadership development programs and as training for department chairs, hospital management teams, other providers or as a public or open workshop program for individual professionals.

The health system simulation is also a valuable instructional component of the Mailman School’s Health Policy and Management curricula and an integral element of its Master’s, Executive, and part-time programs in public health. This program has also been held off-campus, as an executive leadership program, most recently with senior staff, trustees and doctors from Barnabas Health, NewYork-Presbyterian, Englewood Hospital, Holy Name Medical Center, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Mount Sinai Health System, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

Contact Us 

For additional information, please contact Prof. John S. Winkleman or call 212.305.4177.

Download the printable fact sheet