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DBA Student Spotlight: Aaron Kinney

The DBA Student Spotlight series highlights individual stories from within our Doctorate of Business Administration cohorts, representing diverse backgrounds, experiences and aspirations.

DBA Student Aaron Kinney

(UW-Whitewater photo/Jonathon Kelley)


Aaron Kinney

Executive Director – Cardiac Service Line | Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

September 2017 (anticipated)

Advancing business knowledge and academic research

A comparatively young degree, the Doctorate of Business Administration is a practitioner-orientated program with a curriculum that integrates business knowledge across functional areas such as management, accounting, finance, marketing and information technology. Unlike the traditional Ph.D., which tends to be more theoretical, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater DBA focuses on how to strategically solve real-world problems.

This approach was attractive to Aaron Kinney, a doctoral candidate in the UW-Whitewater DBA program and Executive Director of the Herma Heart Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Prior to working for Children’s Hospital, he worked for the Medical College of Wisconsin. Both institutions fall within a niche where patient care, academia and business intersect.

Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys, which measure patient perspectives on care, are an area of concern for hospitals. Based on these scores, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services can withhold up to two percent of hospitals’ Medicare reimbursement payments—potentially millions of dollars for large institutions. Furthermore, healthcare consumers may search and compare HCAHPS scores through an online database.

Because the surveys measure patient perception, many variables may drive their responses. As a result, there is some uncertainty how accurately the surveys reflect quality of care, as opposed to patient satisfaction, and the relationship of the two. Aaron also felt there were opportunities to improve how hospitals analyzed and responded to the survey data.

He related, “I realized it was pretty muddy on the academic side in terms of how patient satisfaction is measured and used. Most hospitals have completed HCAHPS surveys, but academic studies often isolate one survey question as being definitive of patient satisfaction.”

In addition, he was interested in a variable neither directly related to care nor captured on these surveys.

He explained, “I think technology plays an increasingly important role, and that at times, the patient’s perception of the healthcare experience has nothing to do with the care they receive. I wanted to see if there was a clear connection between patient satisfaction and the use of technology like electronic patient portals.”

These interests and concerns fed into Aaron’s DBA coursework and development of his dissertation topic, “Towards a Theory of Patient Satisfaction: Studies on the Impacts of Patient-Technology Fit and Electronic Patient Portal Use on Patient Satisfaction Outcome.”

Kinney engages in a group discussion. Describing the cohort model, he relates, "It would be really challenging to go through the program without your fellow cohort members. They offer such broad experience. You're able to lean on each other and work through things. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)

Kinney engages in group discussion during a weekend class. Describing the cohort model, he relates, “It would be really challenging to go through the program without your fellow cohort members. They offer such broad experience, and you’re able to lean on each other and work through things. It’s very helpful. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)

Though he is not yet done with the program, Aaron has already reaped benefits from his studies. For example, it has impacted his ability to solve real-world business problems and participate with faculty and staff that are publishing in academic journals. As a co-author, he has had numerous abstracts accepted for presentation and even has a manuscript recommended for publication in the journal Pediatric Cardiology.

“Because I’ve gained an understanding of theory, research, and statistics, I’ve been able to contribute to papers and presentations as a co-author,” he shared. “I’m definitely putting what I’ve learned into practice.”

Reflecting on his experience with UW-Whitewater, Aaron said that he would do it all over again.

“Overall, it’s been great,” he said. “It’s been very challenging, but rewarding. If I had to do all over again, I might look at Ph.D. programs a little more closely, but think I would land on the same solution. The DBA is perfect for what I want to do, and UW-Whitewater’s format and schedule fit my needs.”

He also expressed appreciation for the UW-Whitewater’s veterans’ services, saying, “A lot of schools say they have people to handle it, but in my experience, UW-Whitewater really delivers. The staff was amazingly good at taking care of my GI Bill benefits. They’ve made it easy for me, which has been a pleasure.”

UW-Whitewater’s AACSB-accredited Doctorate of Business Administration program is a professional doctorate that enables students to develop in-depth expertise in a specific business area. The DBA is a 60-credit program offered using a cohort model where students attend classes one weekend each month for two years, followed by a year of dissertation work.  Learn more

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