Understanding and Improving US Healthcare: Special UM Student Edition

The healthcare system in the US is important to all of us. But it can be hard to understand. In this course designed especially for UM students at all levels (undergraduate, graduate, and professional), you will learn quickly about the US healthcare system and why it works -- or doesn't work so well. You will also learn about how YOU can improve the US healthcare system. This is all part of a new one-of-a-kind experience at Michigan: a massive online open course for all students at one time. Fit it to your schedule. Online. In person. All U-M.


Matthew Davis
University of Michigan
About the Instructor

Upcoming Session:
Jan 18th 2016 (6 weeks long)
Workload: 2-3 hours/week
*Students who are interested can also register for PUBHLTH 626 to receive credit for their participation in the course.

Register Now:

Step 1 **REQUIRED** - Complete the Sign-up Form
Step 2 **OPTIONAL** - Enroll in PUBHLTH 626
  • PUBHLTH 626 will be offered as a 1 credit course that you may elect.  Registration in this course is optional and not required in order to participate in Understanding & Improving the U.S. Healthcare System.
  • If you are interested in receiving credit, please visit Wolverine Access and enroll in the course.
  • If you indicated you were interested in PUBHLTH 626 when you completed the sign-up form, we will email you with instructions on how to enroll.

Questions or Technical Concerns?

  • Email lrc_help@umich.edu if you have questions or are having trouble registering for the course. 

About the Course

This course is designed to give students several tools to understand the US healthcare system -– by illuminating the core structure and accomplishments of the system, the recurring shortcomings, and attempted remedies through policy reform. Rather than emphasizing complexity (a focus of many other courses about healthcare policy), the lessons in this course will highlight central themes that learners can take away from the course and apply to their own experiences –- and other coursework –- with confidence. Moreover, students who seek more advanced content will have ample opportunity to tailor their learning accordingly.

In addition, through a unique group exercise that will serve as central part of this course, all learners will have the opportunity to learn how they can improve the US healthcare system.  Whether as individuals, in groups, or as future architects of system reform, students in this course will enjoy a premier opportunity to understand the US healthcare system -– and their options for addressing problems in the system -– as they never have before.  

This version of the course is open to UM students ONLY -- as part of a new learning initiative at UM called a "residential MOOC". This combines the flexibility of learning through a massive open online course (MOOC) with the advantages of in-person and community conversations across the UM campus. The key residential component will occur during Week 5 of the course, when students will attend small-group discussions (20 students or fewer) occurring all across campus, facilitated by faculty members from many different disciplines. The small-group discussions will focus on the group exercise and on broader themes from the course.

Another feature of the course is that it highlights the faculty expertise at UM's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI), led by Dr. John Ayanian. IHPI is the largest university collaboration of its kind in the US, serving as a magnet for faculty, research staff, and students who want to learn about and work on ways to improve health and healthcare in the US and around the world. Several IHPI faculty serve as subject matter experts in this course, including serving as online discussion facilitators in the weekly discussion forums that the course will host.

This course is produced by Michael Rubyan, MPH, now a doctoral student in Health Management & Policy at the U-M School of Public Health. Administrative support is provided by Michelle Ehlers, MSW. Dr. Davis and his team are grateful for the sponsorship of IHPI in creating course content, to the Digital Education and Innovation team at UM for technical support, the Office of Medical School Education for curricular support, and the Instructional Design and Technology Team (Medical School Information Services) for operational support.

Recommended Background

No prerequisites are required.

All UM students are welcome (professional, graduate, undergraduate), as this course will bring principles and challenges of the US healthcare system to learners in an accessible way, and will encourage them to examine their own assumptions and experiences as they learn-through-innovation. 

The materials are designed to meet the needs and expectation of learners with a broad array of prior experiences in, and knowledge about, the healthcare system.  

Suggested Readings

A small number of primary source readings from the health policy literature will be posted online for students to read and prepare in advance of weekly didactic teaching sessions and learn-through-innovation.

Course Format

In general, each week will consist of approximately 1 hour of video material, delivered in 8- to 15-minute video segments. All students will be expected to view the video materials. Each week will also include some work outside of video viewing – to include posting homework assignments focused on reflecting about and sharing thoughts on the US healthcare system, readings assigned by the instructor, and self-assessments. Work outside of class is also expected to require about 1 hour weekly, for a total of approximately 2 hours of effort per week.

The exception to this time allotment will occur in Week 5, when course participants will meet in small groups of about 20 students each at different locations around campus, for discussions facilitated by UM faculty members from many different school and disciplines. Many different times and locations will be offered, in order to fit the academic schedules of the participants.


Q:  Can I receive credit for my participation in the course?

A:  YES – Students who enroll in PUBHLTH 626 will receive credit for their participation in the course.  Once you complete the sign-up form, we will email you with more information on how you can enroll.  You are not required to register for PUBHLTH 626 to participate in the course.

Q:  If I have already taken, or plan to take, coursework in health policy elsewhere, is this course still for me?

A:  YES – The goal of this course is to bring learners together from a variety of disciplines and a variety of levels at the University of Michigan, which would be unusual for coursework in just about any other setting. Moreover, the emphasis in this course is on central themes, rather than complexity that is the hallmark of many other courses in health policy.  In addition, a major goal of this course is to help you understand how you can improve the system – in other words, to help each student have a personal, practical, take-away lesson, to complement their improved understanding of the system. Students who wish to enrich their learning beyond the material in the course will be provided with additional suggested readings and will also have the opportunity to engage in discussion threads on advanced topics.