HERU has provided distance learning training in health economics for over 25 years and, while most university teaching has had to adjust in its delivery, we are fortunate to have been providing our postgraduate programme in Health Economics for Health Professionals (HE4HP) fully online for the last four years.
Students on the current HE4HP programme have been working hard and are looking forward to the second semester. In the meantime we are already getting enquiries and some applications for the 2021 intake.
Many of these questions are technical or academic questions about how the programme is structured, entry requirements, etc. Some questions relate more to past student experiences.
We asked four HE4HP students (current and past) some of the common questions we receive from prospective students. We selected the students to help reflect the diversity of our students: a psychiatrist working in the NHS in England; a cardiologist working in the Philippines; a specialist working for the World Health Organisation in India; and a pharmacist from industry working in Zurich.
We’ve kept the replies anonymous (and made up some names!), but our panel have agreed that we can share what they said.
Why did you choose to study Health Economics?
Hal: I was interested in finding the best method to optimise the allocation of health resources. From my perspective as a board member of a Clinical Commissioning Group, there is a constant pressure of managing resources within a finite financial envelope.
Ed: Early in my clinical practice, my main concern is to do the best I can for my patients. Effectiveness, therefore was my main criterion in managing patients. As my experience grew, I realized that there were so many other factors that needed to be considered in making decisions regarding the delivery of healthcare, the patients’ preferences, as well as costs have to be considered too. Discussing these ideas with my wife (a clinician with an MSc in Health Economics), I learned that these concepts are well known in the field of health economics.
Ron: I have worked in public health on projects in low and middle income countries for the last 8 years. I have always been interested in health economics and how resources allocation decisions are taken in different countries. This led to me being interested to look for post graduate courses in health economics.
Una: I have an MSc in Economics but working in healthcare consulting and industry I realised that I had basic knowledge about health economics, but I was more scratching the surface and thus wanted to expand my knowledge.
What attracted you to the Health Economics for Health Professionals programme at University of Aberdeen?
Hal: I researched all options for distance learning study both in the UK and internationally. I also diligently reviewed their modules, their faculty and pace of study. The one for me which had the best module options, credible faculty and flexibility of study was the University of Aberdeen.
Ed: I felt the HE4HP programme was the most suitable for me for two main reasons. Firstly, it is purely online. There are no similar programmes offered locally and I cannot afford to study overseas because of my commitments to my school and to my patients.
Secondly, the main objective of the programme is to give the health professional a better understanding of how economic concepts can be applied to healthcare and its delivery. It does not attempt, however to convert the health professional into a hardcore economist.
Ron: I was looking for a course that I could study from distance whilst working full time.
Una: First and foremost the programme is outlined very nicely online. You get a grasp of what you will cover quite quickly, so it helped me immensely when doing my research and deciding for which programme I want to apply. Being able to study online was another big advantage. I didn't want to leave my current home and job and I could do the programme part time. It is a very international program. Teachers are very accessible and happy to answer questions.
What you enjoy/enjoyed most about the programme? And found most challenging?
Hal: I enjoyed most the content of the course. The modules are well laid out and paced to enable flexible study. Also, the course is clearly aimed at health professionals so the context is relevant to my practice. I did find challenging navigating through the technical side of some questions particularly when they required advanced Microsoft Excel skills.
Ed: What I enjoyed most about the program is that it gave me a new perspective and a better understanding of the current state of healthcare and how it is delivered (at least when applied to my own setting). Also, the freedom the program offered in terms of time.
What I found most challenging is the fact I live in a different time zone from Aberdeen and therefore cannot participate in the live events (I had to content myself with the recordings). Also, the support from peers/classmates is not as strong compared to when enrolled in a class where you are face-to-face with your teachers and classmates.
Ron: Although stressful, the dissertation module felt the most rewarding. I felt the dissertation allowed to get much deeper into a specific topic and it was really helpful having support from tutors to guide the study. I felt this was the part of the course I got most out of because it allowed me to put into practice economic modelling skills.
The most challenging part was finding enough time for the course whilst working full time. All courses within the MSc were challenging and finding the time to complete them with requisite reading (and thinking) time was a challenge.
Una: Enjoying: Exchange with the teachers; Courses as such were quite interesting; opportunity to select different courses; exchange with other students; being independent, i.e. given a autonomy to study at my pace (not being dependent on classes). Challenging: finding extra motivation next to work.
How will you use or how have you used what you have learned on the programme in your career?
Hal: I have already used what I learned both in commissioning roles and clinical roles. I am better able to scrutinise the economic case of Business Cases but also started collecting data to evaluate the economic benefit of other NHS Services.
Ed: I have been collaborating on some health economic projects, mainly economic evaluations even before I enrolled in the program and hopefully, I can contribute more this time around. At school, our group has collaborated with people from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine regarding pulmonary tuberculosis. Also, I am being given the opportunity to introduce the field of health economics among medical students through a lecture.
Ron: Since completing the course, I have applied for and been appointed as a Health Specialist, specialising in Health Economics. This would not have been possible without first having completed my MSc with University of Aberdeen. I would expect that most aspects of the course will be helpful for my career ahead.
Una: The learnings were applicable from day one and still continue to use them. A broad program which allows you to apply learnings on many levels.
We hope that these interview highlights give a little bit more information about the course and the experiences of students undertaking our HE4HP programme.
The Health Economics for Health Professionals programme is aimed at health professionals and other interested students. No experience of economics is necessary. The programme covers the core issues of health economics and highlights the relevance of health economics to working health professionals.
The full Programme details, including how to apply, are available on the University of Aberdeen Health Economics for Health Professionals web pages.
Many thanks to Shelley Farrar, Programme Co-ordinator for the HE4HP programme, for help in developing this blog post, and to the four students for sharing their experiences of the programme.
HERU is supported by the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (SGHSC). The views expressed here are those of the Unit and not necessarily those of the CSO.