German university
and HPU forging

A German school gets a lesson
in privatized American health care

By Helen Altonn

A German university has turned to Hawaii Pacific University to learn about the American health care system and engineering.

Joseph Ha, an HPU marketing professor, recently spent three days at the University of Applied Sciences in Neu-ulm, west of Munich, describing how the health care system works in the United States.

While there, he said, he "sold them on an engineering program," and 40 engineers in a weekend master's of business administration program at that university will visit HPU in February.

Lectures and field studies will be organized for the students during a two-week stay, Ha said. They will talk with local leaders and managers in the engineering industry to learn how Americans do business, as opposed to industries in Germany, he said.

The University of Applied Sciences was the first in Germany to start a weekend MBA program for which students pay, Ha said.

"It's a private-enterprise type of program within a German government university," he said.

The university president, Gerhard Hack, administrators and business school officials came here last year to try to arrange a program with HPU, Ha said.

They chose the Hawaii college out of all those in the United States after searching the Internet and literature for a "role model" on how to build a university with a private enterprise, he said.

Plans were made for 40 medical doctors in the first weekend MBA program at the German university to visit HPU last month, but the trip fell apart after Sept. 11, Ha said.

The program was about to be eliminated when the university invited him to go to Germany to discuss the American health care system, Ha said.

He said he talked about the marketing strategy in the U.S. health care industry compared with Germany, and the different health plans and hospitals in Hawaii. He told the German doctors how American doctors work with hospitals, insurance companies and the government.

"German doctors are really worried. Their system is changing from a government program, in which every citizen is entitled to health insurance, to more private insurance," Ha said.

More affluent people are buying private insurance in addition to the government insurance, he said.

"Doctors are kind of worried their future is at stake because the marketplace is changing," Ha said.

The German system, in which doctors work for the government, "is good for security, but then again it's a dead end for challenging young people."

A consultant for a number of years with doctors in New York, Ha said there is a growing movement in Germany with people wanting better and faster health services and doctors wanting to privatize.

They said the government underpays them and many people abuse the system, using the hospitals to get free housing and food, he said.

The 40 doctors in the MBA program want to set up their own medical offices and market themselves, similar to the American system, Ha said.

As part of their program, they must go overseas for an international perspective. They plan to visit HPU after the engineers, he said.

"They want quality control," he said, noting department chiefs and chief surgeons "are still working in the old style, so there is really conflict between upper management and the doctors."

The big question, he said, is how the doctors can market themselves in a German socialist system where advertising is not allowed for medical doctors.

A possible exchange of students has been suggested by the German university president, Ha said.

"This is really going great."

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