The Master in Clinical Service Operations program curriculum has been tailored to prepare health care professionals and administrators to lead clinical service operational infrastructures. Coursework will include a review of fundamental concepts and tools, combined with a mentored capstone experience and longitudinal seminar series all residentially on our Harvard Medical School campus. 

MCSO learning model

The Learning Model

Our innovative approach to learning incorporates both traditional and novel teaching methods. The core curriculum is designed to ensure the seamless integration of core learning objectives across modules, while simultaneously allowing students to master the practical skills to apply these important concepts in the real world. Because collaboration is critical in clinical operations, students will learn how to work in teams and develop networks.

Along with classroom work, team assignments and leadership exercises, the program features a capstone project—a mentored clinical operations experience at an HMS-affiliated hospital. In this fast-paced clinical setting, students will apply their newly acquired skills and practical knowledge as they implement, interpret, refine and present their projects throughout the academic year.

  • Learning Methods

    Students will benefit from practical experience in clinical operations. Content will be integrated across domains— clinical operations management, financial and strategic planning, resource planning, quality and safety, systems design performance improvement and information systems integration. The theory presented in each core curriculum topic will be further integrated during complementary hands-on sessions.
    These exercises include analyzing case studies, applying new skills and LEAN thinking concepts in areas such as performance improvement and modeling business and strategic plans. At simulation facilities across the Harvard affiliates, students will have the opportunity to practice skills application and scenario planning.

    While traditional lectures are used in the core curriculum to deliver key learning objectives, the program also incorporates contemporary teaching methods, such as short lectures and associated practice sessions, as well as an innovative flipped classroom.

    Each seminar will focus on providing access to real-world clinical management experiences. Clinical and administrative leaders will be invited to share their career paths and students will able to take advantage of networking opportunities. Students will gain new insights through feedback on their capstone and other projects and through a journal club, where they can research “hot topics” in clinical operations.

    A six-credit capstone project is the key component of the program. During this intensive experience, students will work with and shadow clinical operation professionals at an HMS-affiliated hospital. Focused on clinical operations, past capstone projects have included patient throughput, operational efficiency, implementation of new technology, reducing over-utilization and reducing patient wait days.

    Each student will be assigned a capstone mentor and will receive a capstone report. The report will build throughout the program, with portions of the report being submitted at key milestones. Students will receive feedback from their personal mentor, peers and lecturers.

  • Core Courses




    Clinical Operations Management and Workflows

    The aim of this course is to break down key components of clinical healthcare operations management and quality across inpatient, ambulatory and procedural areas.  The course will prepare students for real-world management scenarios related to patient care, quality control, and people management and general operations.  Students will learn about different aspects of managing healthcare organizations including efficiency, quality and safety, and process improvement. The course will illuminate the importance of patient access and timeliness of care and will cover modern strategies for capacity management and throughput strategies to optimize patient care delivery.  Students will learn about the significance of the EMR in today’s healthcare delivery system and will obtain real-world strategies for tracking performance including understanding operational metrics and productivity.  The course will also cover the basics on healthcare disaster planning and crisis management.  A core component of the program will be a deep dive into performance improvement, operations redesign and change management using case studies and working in teams.  Key learning objectives will include:

    • Understand the fundamental roles of clinical operations workflows across ambulatory, inpatient and procedural areas
    • Understand principles of capacity management, throughput and patient flow, as well as the connection to patient satisfaction and revenue implications
    • Explore performance improvement strategies for high quality, efficient operations
    • Delve into the role of the clinical operations expert in daily operations and disaster planning. Learn how the regulatory environment shapes clinical operations, decision making and patient care delivery


    Financial Planning and Management in Healthcare Organizations

    This course will provide the basics of healthcare finances including accounting, business planning, revenue cycle management, and budgeting. The course will provide clinical operations leaders with a broad overview of healthcare reimbursement, policy, and delivery in the US and abroad.  Students will learn about strategies that healthcare systems have taken to increase value and improve revenue, while reducing costs, including population health management trends and the use of integrated health systems.  The course will provide the student with insights on how to develop and manage healthcare operations, capital, and research budgets, as well as departmental budgets.  Students will gain an understanding of reimbursement and payer mix and will learn strategies for managing costs and optimizing revenue.  Students will learn basic principles of healthcare business planning and will explore approaches for program growth through enhancing case mix or developing service lines.  The course will illustrate how health reform and regulatory changes can impact healthcare finances.  Additionally, the course will prepare students for how to exercise leadership during budget processes or business planning, and how to track and monitor financial performance.  Key learning objectives include: 

    • Discuss key concepts of healthcare finances that are relevant to a clinical operations leader including budgeting, business planning, and financial forecasting
    • Describe key financial vocabulary and concepts, including, but not limited to: direct and indirect costs, fixed and variable costs, contribution margin analysis, and break-even analysis
    • Discuss the major aspects of reimbursement, contracts and global payments
    • Define case mix and length of stay and their impact on revenue


    Leadership and Teamwork


    Quantitative Science and Clinical Research in Healthcare Service Operations

    A core skill set for clinical operations leaders is understanding and using data to make decisions.  This course will provide exposure to the use of quantitative data for analysis, program development, quality monitoring and improvement, and real-world decision-making related to the patient experience and provider performance.  The course will also provide the clinical operations leader with valuable insights on clinical research and grants management.  Specifically, students will learn how to interpret clinical research data to help guide business planning and program development decision-making.  We will explore how grants and clinical research are utilized to enhance clinical programming and patient experience.  The course will provide an overview of grants and research management, as the successful integration of clinical and observational research can be extremely impactful.  Key learning objectives will include:

    • Understand how clinical data and research data is used as part of clinical operations
    • Learn models for clinical research integration into the clinical setting, including the role of grants

    Develop analytical skills for interpreting data and applying to decision making


    Effective Healthcare Resource Management

    This course will focus on space and people management, which are critical resources for healthcare operations leaders.  This is an essential module, which will go into depth into space, facilities and capital planning processes, as well as providing an overview of human resources management from hiring staff, developing a workforce, and retaining talent.  Leaders will learn the fundamentals of these important skills and how they apply to the success of the clinical operation from a growth, patient satisfaction and revenue perspective.  Key learning objectives include:

    • Understand how a master space and capital equipment plan is developed in a clinical operation
    • Describe best practices for managing human resources
    • Understand how to manage capacity and productivity in an era of burnout and fatigue


    Supply Chain Management

    A major role for any clinical operations leader is supply chain management.  Access to supplies is critical to patient care, and leaders need to have a deep understanding of the upstream and downstream processes, as well as the importance of vendor relationships, including the opportunity to co-develop innovations through research or beta testing.  Clinical operations leaders also need to respect boundaries with vendors and be mindful of conflicts of interest rules.   Managing supply cost is a major focus, and understanding strategies for reducing costs or better managing inventory are critical.  Forecasting and budgeting is a key skillset and ensuring that students understand the core components of supply and equipment contracts is important.  There is also significant innovation in tracking and monitoring high-cost supplies and pharmaceuticals.  The course will also cover using data and metrics for supply chain management and how to deal with shortages that have become more frequent over the past several years.  Key learning objectives:

    • Learn basic principles of supply chain management
    • Model scenarios for supply chain optimization
    • Understand the role of vendors and ethics associated with managing supplies and pharmaceuticals


    Health care Service Line Planning and Operations

    The service line trend has evolved over the past 20 years and service lines are currently being used in both community hospitals and academic medical centers to organize care delivery for the patient, improve quality, reduce costs, and drive top-line margin and market share.  Despite this trend, the organization and governance of healthcare organizations are not always well aligned with the development of service lines, and clinical operations leaders need insight in how to advance change and work towards models of care that best support the patient and organizational goals.  Typical service lines may be disease-focused like cancer, heart disease, neurosciences, digestive diseases, and behavioral health, or focused on different populations like women’s health, children’s health, or geriatrics, or maybe more procedural or location-based including transplant, dialysis, critical care/ICU, perioperative services, or emergency medicine.  A key driver for the establishment of service lines is the need for a complex set of clinical services that span ambulatory, procedural, and inpatient settings, as well as require high degrees of multi-disciplinary management and integration of clinical research.  Physician alignment is necessary for all service line models and there are novel approaches to organizing physicians in service lines.  Service lines are often a vehicle for program development, capital investment, and can be leveraged for philanthropy and naming gifts.  Clinical operations leaders and service line leaders play a critical leadership role in the day-to-day management and strategic planning of these operations.  This course will provide a context of how service lines fit into the overall framework of a hospital and will cover all aspects of service line leadership and management including governance, financial planning, accounting, quality control, operations, capital planning, business development, and patient-centered care.  The course will explore how service lines are developing in systems and in other countries as a preferred model of patient-centered, high-quality care.  Key learning objectives include:

    • Be able to explain the organization and principles of a service line
    • Understand planning and finances associated with service lines
    • Explore models for service line management and physician alignment
    • Learn how service lines can grow market share and enhance patient satisfaction


    Integrating New Technology into Healthcare Delivery

    Technological advances in healthcare are exploding at a rapid pace.  The clinical operations leader needs a firm grasp of how to evaluate and implement new technologies into a workflow.  Telemedicine and digital health are two major disruptive technologies that are resulting in entirely new processes and workflows.  Additionally, the role of artificial intelligence and big data is a major trend that will likely be part of basic operations over the next 10 years. Clinical operations leaders need to understand how patients and providers interface with these new technologies.  Another major category of innovation is the rise of genomic medicine and personalized healthcare.  These advances can create major patient benefits but also operational hurdles as care becomes tailored for the individual patient.    Students will gain a lens into the complexities of reimbursement and the benefits and risks of early adoption of technology.  The course will also explore how the innovation curve is dynamic and how healthcare organizations translate innovation in different settings.  Key learning objectives include:

    • Recognize the role of new technologies and their implementation of clinical operations
    • Recognize the role of big data, registries and artificial intelligence in the operations of a clinical unit
    • Explore how telemedicine and digital health are changing healthcare delivery
    • Describe the potential impact of genomic and personalized medicine on the future of healthcare operations


    Creating a Learning Organization in Healthcare Settings

    The education mission is a key element of all healthcare organizations for patients, providers, and staff.  Given the rapid pace of change in healthcare not only must individuals be continuous learners, but also organizations must continually “learn” to adapt, change, and grow.  As our healthcare organizations become vehicles for population health management across regional networks, this type of learning is necessary now more than ever before.  Additionally, with the advent of system wide EMRs, digital and tele-health, access to big data, and personalized medicine approaches, the way providers achieve their work and approach patient care is evolving.  There are some new risks associated with rapid change and organizations need to learn how to preserve the fundamentals of patient care.  Furthermore, patient and family expectations for the providers and teams are shifting and even some care is shifting into the home or virtual setting.  This course will explore the facets of creating a learning organization.  The course will also explore the teaching mission in the healthcare setting, including the operational integration of students and post-graduate trainees and financing of graduate medical education.  Key learning objectives include:

    • Understand the meaning of a learning health system and strategies for continuous learning processes
    • Recognize the utility of data from EHRs in business planning, forecasting, and practice improvement
    • Describe the role and impact of graduate medical education and teaching on a clinical unit


    Clinical Services Operations Skillsets

    This course is designed to provide in depth training on the core skill sets required by clinical operations leaders that will be required in all levels of clinical operations from running a small unit or department, to a hospital service line, to managing an entire hospital.  This course will delve into the special skills required by healthcare organization leaders from collaboration, consensus building, delegation, change management, decision-making, and strategic communications to strategic planning, systems planning, and the use of creativity.  A key skill set will be to teach students how to navigate in an increasingly complex environment with a shifting regulatory landscape and ambiguity.  Through case studies focused on the clinical operation's setting, our aim will be to develop a tool kit for leaders that they can draw upon in their future careers as operational leaders.  Key learning objectives include:

    • Understanding core skillsets for operational leaders including change management, consensus building, decision making and strategic planning
    • Use role plays and scenarios to practice skills and communications
    • Learn how to leverage skills in a multi-disciplinary team environment


    Seminar Series:  Real World Experience in Managing Healthcare Organizations

    The seminar series will include three distinct interactive learning formats:  1) lectures; 2) journal clubs; and 3) peer capstone feedback sessions.

    The lecture series will include approximately 12 lectures by healthcare leaders across multiple disciplines. Industry executives from related fields will also be invited to share their perspectives. These lectures will include background on their career path, key leadership qualities, team building, communication, and other skill sets and will explore their personal and organizational strategies for work-life balance, resiliency, and burnout. 

    In the journal club sessions, students will be asked to present and critique a peer-reviewed paper from a clinical operations perspective.

    The peer capstone feedback sessions will give students the opportunity to present updates on their capstone projects and receive feedback from the program directors and their peers.  Students will be trained on the specific milestones for evaluating the progress of the capstone projects.

    Key learning objectives include:

    • Describe the career paths of clinical operations leaders and the skillsets they have employed in advancing their careers
    • Interpret and present clinical operations research findings from a peer-reviewed journal to fellow learners in a journal-club format
    • Analyze and critique progress of peers’ capstone projects using a structured framework


    Capstone and Practicum

    The capstone experience is a required component of the Master’s program.  The experience will be an intensive hands-on experience at one of the Harvard affiliated hospitals and is targeted to allow students to apply the tools, strategies, and methods from their didactic courses to develop a solution to an evidence-based operational problem seen in healthcare delivery. Students will be paired with a mentor from within a healthcare organization to oversee their work. At the beginning of the capstone (i.e., over the fall term), the mentor and student will identify a topic and specific problem to address or investigate.  Ideally, this will be an issue that is germane to both the student and mentor’s work and organization.  They will perform evidence-based research into the issue, the impact on care, and best practices if they exist.  They will then analyze and describe the current system of care surrounding the problem within the mentor’s organization, and design intervention.  They will construct an implementation plan along with measures, and a method for assessing and displaying outcomes.  Finally, they will share early findings from implementation.  Examples could include the understanding and updating of budgetary or business planning processes, the creation of system solutions to solve workflow, implementing an innovation or new service, performance improvement, supply chain management, human resources management, or clinical research integration.  The key objective of the capstone include:

    • Participate in operations based clinical project at an affiliated hospital
    • Receive mentorship from the affiliate site capstone mentor
    • Explore team dynamics, patient experience, clinical operations, regulatory requirements, and strategic and financial perspectives
    • Complete a capstone report which is presented at the affiliate site and to the Capstone committee




  • Academic and Attendance Requirements

    In order to graduate with the degree of “Master in Clinical Service Operations,” students must fulfill all of the program’s academic and attendance requirements, including completion of the 36-credit curriculum and a successful oral capstone presentation (two first author original manuscripts; one accepted submitted and one submitted to a peer-reviewed journal). The MCSO degree will not be granted to any student who is not in good standing or against whom a disciplinary charge is pending. In addition, a student’s term bill must be paid in full before they will be awarded the degree.

    A detailed look at the HMS academic and financial policies can be found in the Student Handbook.

    Evaluation of the Capstone

    The Capstone Committee will be composed of the primary site mentor, their faculty facilitator and a program representative. A structural framework for the capstone thesis will be provided. Students must meet regularly with their Capstone Committee and submit progress reports on each occasion. 

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