American College of Healthcare Executives Offers Pandemic Simulation Exercise

June 21, 2021

Beginning this summer, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) will offer a new strategic decision-making and team-building exercise, including a unique pandemic component, to its 48,000 members across the globe. This unique learning experience, developed at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, is designed for healthcare leaders.

David Bartholomew, senior vice president of Learning, ACHE: “At our 2021 ACHE Congress, we heard hospital leaders share a need for a way to cement the lessons learned from the pandemic. Mailman’s new exercise includes a simulated crisis—likely the first such simulation of its kind—which will help our members have an appreciation for best practice measures needed to ensure a secure future.”

John S. Winkleman, director of the Health System Simulation program and Consulting Practice and a member of the Columbia Mailman School faculty in the Department of Health Policy and Management: “We are excited to have the opportunity to work with the ACHE to ensure that health system leaders learn how to grow into new areas, manage through a recession and most importantly, remain strong and viable throughout and following a pandemic. We have witnessed the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis on healthcare systems. Going forward, all hospital executives and providers need to be adept at navigating an unsettled marketplace through a host of staff deployment, resource allocation, financing, regulatory requirements, and marketing challenges.”

Available both in-person and online, the Health System Simulation introduces a pandemic crisis, along with other challenges, in a realistic exercise. It matches the complexity and intensity of decision-making in a multi-hospital marketplace, to help teach healthcare executives in strategic decision-making on legal, regulatory, and clinical, so they can weather the crisis and best meet the healthcare needs of the communities they serve.

As part of the simulation, healthcare executives face numerous challenges, such as preventing supply chain disruptions, managing lost revenues as healthcare workers redeploy to other areas, and addressing the mental health stressors experienced by frontline workers. Executives must also seize opportunities, including the chance to participate in developing public service programs and innovating protocols around testing, treatment, and vaccination.

The American College of Healthcare Executives

For over 85 years, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) has focused on one mission—advancing leaders and the field of healthcare leadership excellence. ACHE is the professional home to more than 48,000 healthcare executives who are committed to integrity, lifelong learning, leadership, and diversity and inclusion. Healthcare executives count on ACHE to help them gain valuable knowledge to improve health for their patients and their communities. Members have access to networking, education, and career development through a network of 77 chapters. (More here.)

America’s First Health System Simulation

The first Health System Simulation in the United States, named in honor of its creator, Thomas P. Ference, who taught at Columbia University for 51 years, simulates the complexities associated with hospital management. Participants are assigned to mock hospital leadership teams in the roles of CEO, chief financial officer, chief medical officer, and chief nursing officer. Through a series of sequential operating cycles, the team makes strategic decisions in operations—for example, how much money to allocate to marketing vs. quality improvements. After each round, teams review their performance results and adjust their resource allocations, supported by feedback from a simulation facilitator. Along the way, the teams create a mission statement and benchmark their progress.

Developed in 2009 with the input of healthcare industry leaders and updated in June 2021, the health system simulation is a part of trainings given to graduate students, as well as top executives at organizations. The simulation is also part of education programs at NewYork-Presbyterian, NYC Health+Hospitals, Bocconi University (Milan), and now, the ACHE.