Graham School News

Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers in Search of Healthcare Solutions

Philip Baker
University of Chicago Health Informatics Instructor Krishna Ramachandran

When the University of Chicago’s Biomedical Informatics program contacted Krishna Ramachandran about potentially serving as an instructor and industry advisor for the new program, he had recently become Chief Administrative Officer at DuPage Medical Group and its subsidiary Boncura Health Solutions, which provides value-based care and analytics services for other health system clients. 

Krishna began his journey in the United States by pursuing an MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2002. He continued his healthcare industry growth at Epic Systems Corporation and at DuPage Medical Group for over fifteen years. While at DuPage, he completed his executive MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

“One of my life’s goals has always been to teach” says Krishna, who is now a vice president with Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which operates the Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. “That, combined with the opportunity to shape the program’s curriculum and impact the next generation of healthcare professionals, crystallized the decision for me.”

At a time in the healthcare industry when the landscape is studded with innumerable and unevenly distributed pockets of innovation, there is a huge opportunity to bring these to scale. Essential for succeeding in this next step, Krishna says, is training the next generation of bright young minds to appreciate the complexity of the healthcare industry while also grounding them with the knowledge and skills to solve problems.

“What you can do in a degree program is to broaden your sense for the healthcare industry as a whole,” Krishna says. “This is one of my goals in ‘Big and Little Data in Healthcare’. I want to give students an understanding of the complexity of the landscape while at the same time not overwhelming them. I believe it’s a truly exciting time to be in healthcare and that there are an enormous number of opportunities to do innovative and impactful work.”

To that end, when developing his class, Krishna says he worked backwards from the core kernels of knowledge he hoped to impart to students. Knowing that no single sector within the industry today can solve the problems in healthcare, he focused on the particular challenges of tackling problems that draw on a variety of disciplines and require the coordination of an array of diverse perspectives.

He also wanted to begin building a bridge for students between the academic world and industry by giving them a sense for how new technologies, data sources and analytical models impact these perspectives and ultimately contribute to solving real-world business problems.

“In healthcare today, you need a cross-functional team to solve problems,” he says. “One of the things I enjoy about my job is observing how all the different perspectives come together to find a solution. At HCSC, we work hard to convene partners across the industry for their unique perspectives, which facilitates out-of-the-box thinking and helps us identify creative solutions to improve care for our members.”

One way Krishna brings these aspects of the healthcare industry to light for students is by drawing on the wealth of contacts he’s made over his 17-year career. By inviting guest speakers to the class, he gives students the opportunity to dialog with industry leaders who bring their unique knowledge and varied perspective of the healthcare industry to the table.

“Bringing speakers in has been a great vehicle for deepening students’ sense for the ideas and patterns that shape the industry,” he says. “Insights that might seem very local to one area in healthcare can often serve to positively impact another. Being able to adapt and learn while building bridges that translate between sectors is critical for success in today’s world.”

In the end, Krishna emphasizes that this is an exciting time to be in healthcare. The 18% of GDP and trillions of dollars we spend each year as a nation is not sustainable. For an individual who aspires to make a deep and lasting contribution to the world, there might be no better place to be.