McDonough School of Business
News Story

Group of MBA Students Work on a Healthcare Project in Lima

A group of students traveled to Lima, Peru, this summer as part of their Global Business Experience (GBE) course to work for Peruvian healthcare company Pulso Salud. We spoke with team members Elizabeth Sloss and Robert Beasley, both third-year students in the MBA Evening Program, about their first consulting experience with a foreign healthcare company.

Why did you choose Lima for your consulting project?

ES: When selecting projects for the Global Business Experience, my goal was to choose a project that aligned with my professional interests. I’m from Arlington, Va., and my background is in healthcare, and Pulso Salud’s project in Lima sounded very interesting. Beyond project scope, I was eager to spend more time exploring Lima and the surrounding areas.

RB: I’m originally from Simi Valley, California. I was excited for all of the global destination options, and I didn’t believe I could go wrong with any of the choices. Shanghai, Bologna, and Lima were all cities I had never visited. With that in mind, I placed much more emphasis on the project type and the project goal. Because I work in healthcare and that is the field for which I have the strongest passion, it was easy for me to prioritize the only healthcare project — for Pulso Salud.

What did your consulting project for Pulso Salud entail?

ES: Our client, Pulso Salud, is an occupational healthcare company that has expanded in recent years to locations throughout Peru. Through extensive screenings, Pulso Salud found that approximately 70 percent of its patient population has one or more symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a condition associated with higher risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Pulso asked us to develop a strategy for the design and implementation of a preventive healthcare model that could be adapted in-house. Over the course of the project, we validated an existing evidence-based intervention, developed a marketing plan targeting Pulso’s customers, and recommended a high-impact patient engagement strategy.

RB: This is an interesting field of study in healthcare, because many rich, developed countries are struggling with how to address some of the same behavioral health issues. Prescription drugs, procedures, and further testing offer marginal benefits, so we had to explore innovative, cost effective treatment options for approaches to preventive care. In the end, we recommended a healthcare model that enforced patient engagement through health coaches – individuals trained in behavioral health with a strong focus on customer service and patient engagement.

What lessons did you learn from conducting business in Peru and about its healthcare industry?

ES: The GBE is a great way to get hands-on experience conducting business in a foreign country. We learned a lot about the Peruvian healthcare system, including key players and major challenges. Huge disparities exist, particularly related to formal and informal segments of the economy. Like many nations around the world, the prevalence of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are increasing across the entire population — making effective and accessible preventive care ever more important.

RB: The healthcare industry is very challenging to understand in the United States – let alone in a foreign country. We had to learn about the formal and informal economies, and the different types of health insurances offered in the country. A country like Peru could be uniquely positioned to lead in healthcare areas, such as metabolic preventive care, if they are able to align the delivery of quality care with dollars (or soles).

What feedback did you get from your client?

ES: We worked closely with Pulso Salud over the course of the GBE project. Beginning in April, we scheduled weekly or bi-weekly conference calls to establish project scope and discuss our research findings. At the beginning of June, our team submitted a preliminary report to Pulso with our initial recommendations and proposed next steps. After reviewing the report, Pulso shared thoughtful and extensive feedback, which helped us to redefine and narrow the scope of our final deliverable

RB: We were very fortunate, because our client was engaged throughout the whole project. We feel like we were able to deliver a product that the client found to be valuable. The constant client engagement helped motivate us throughout the course because we felt that they would be using our presentation for major decisions or client presentations of their own.

How did the Global Business Experience course help you use the skills you mastered/sharpened in the MBA program?

ES: The GBE truly was a culmination of our MBA education thus far. To complete our project, we relied on skills and frameworks learned in marketing, operations, strategy, and finance. For example, we developed a value proposition and proposed a marketing strategy for Pulso to utilize with its existing customers in the occupational healthcare space.

RB: The real world experience of the GBE tests your ability to tailor your skills to the client’s needs. Throughout our careers, we are going to have changing jobs, different managers, and various clients. It is important to be able to hone your skills and knowledge to adjust to your client’s goals and needs.

Do you have any words of wisdom for students taking the GBE course next year?

ES: Work hard! Aim to provide meaningful recommendations to the client. Share detailed insights. After an initial presentation, our team realized that our proposals needed improvement. Even though it meant continuing to work on the project once we arrived in country, we kept honing in on our recommendations and eventually provided concrete examples to support each point that we made. In the end, it made a big difference — our client was impressed with the scope and depth of the information we shared!

RB: The value you deliver to your client and the amount that you can learn doesn’t have a boundary that can be defined in a letter grade. Beyond the GBE course itself, I found the in-country company visits to be exciting, as well as the ability to explore the global city with our team. One of the first days we arrived, we were sent on a scavenger hunt throughout Lima – this helped us get familiar with the city very quickly. I would recommend that all new students taking GBE explore the city and visit nearby cities or countries while they are abroad – it was fun to watch all of our classmates in different cities post to their Instagram accounts during their travels.