How our MBA students helped greater Williamsburg become a HEARTSafe Community

In every community, health and safety are large priorities. Every three years, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center and Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg complete a Community Health Needs Assessment in order to improve health care services. In 2016, cardiac health was identified as an area in need of improvement. In response, the regional hospitals partnered together in an effort to create a “HEARTSafe Community”. This would entail a complex strategic plan in collaboration with several community leaders. Luckily, local forces were provided help in the form of the William & Mary School of Business’s Field Consultancy Program.

HEARTSafe is an organization developed by David Hiltz and Michael Aries in 2002, calling for communities to implement changes that would increase the rate of survival for a sudden cardiac arrest. Williamsburg’s hospitals joined with the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance, and the Fire Departments from the City of Williamsburg, James City County, and York County, as well as the EMT services from those counties to bring about these changes. Through the Field Consultancy Program, several second year MBA students were given the opportunity to help develop and present an implementation plan for this important task.

Criteria for becoming a HEARTSafe Community include an increased CPR certified population, easily accessible defibrillators in more public spaces, supportive cardiac preventive care, and a communicational plan for the general public. With so many community partners involved in the project, officials were confident in their ability to meet the criteria, but logistics were complicated with so many moving parts.

That’s where the MBA students stepped in to help. Over the course of four months, the students were tasked with researching how previous communities became HEARTSafe in the past, planning the logistics of each criterion, and presenting their plan to the local officials. The group also conducted interviews and market research to determine where to conduct CPR trainings and place AEDs (automated external defibrillator) that would have the most impact. They then built key metrics to track progress in order to present the community’s performance to the HEARTSafe organization.

The students also approached local businesses to gauge their interest in having several employees CPR certified or placing AEDs on the premises. A majority of the businesses were willing and even eager to participate in the program. The group created various outreach materials, such as a website and brochures to promote awareness of the heart safe initiative.

“The students helped package the program for us, and helped get local businesses on board,’ Says David Masterson, President of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. “They brought a business perspective and clear thinking, it was good to bring outside eyes to the table. They helped develop strategies to motivate people in the community.”

The students provided the program partners with recommendations for completing and sustaining the project. Among the recommendations was the utilization of the mobile phone app Pulse Point. In the event of cardiac emergency, bystanders are able to notify those close by who are certified in CPR, or located the nearest AED. Several communities have already begun implementing Pulse Point into their cardiac emergency response plan. Pulse Point enables citizens to provide life-saving assistance anywhere in the community.

In February, Greater Williamsburg was designated a HEARTSafe Community. All those involved, including Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance, Williamsburg, James City and York counties EMS services and the Peninsula EMS Council Inc., have shown great progress in helping the community prevent and respond to cardiac events. With these partners and local businesses continuing to pursue this goal, Williamsburg will be a healthier and safer community.

“Usually with the Field Consultancy program, students are working with one business or one client. In this case, students were working with an entire community and many partners,” says Louis Rossiter, faculty advisor for the program. “But the students worked very hard and worked very well together to exceed expectations."