The Centre for Healthcare Engineering’s Role in Optimizing Healthcare
On the surface, repairing broken bones or analyzing symptoms to prescribe the correct medication might seem like quite simple tasks, it’s important to realize the oversight required to effectively provide healthcare for million of citizens. It is something that requires an expansive, but also cohesive, network of hospitals, clinics, ambulances, research labs, suppliers, and government aid, both financial and from a policy standpoint.

According to Professor Timothy Chan, the new director of the University of Toronto Engineering’s Centre for Healthcare Engineering (CHE), the current system is in desperate need of re-engineering. The CHE is using a highly interdisciplinary, systems engineering approach to healthcare, and, by doing so, their goal is to drastically improve how healthcare works in Canada.

“Health-care systems are a lot like giant factories,” says Chan, “they involve a large number of people and processes all working together in different stages to meet one goal. At the CHE, we pioneer research that optimizes many of those stages, making health-care delivery more efficient, less costly and quicker.”

So, how exactly is the team at the CHE endeavoring to improve the efficiency of the system by essentially taking the “waiting” out of the “waiting room?”

CHE’s Unique Contribution

Aimed mostly at reducing the costs of healthcare spending, which can total more than 40 percent of the annual budget in some Canadian provinces, CHE’s systems engineering approach has been shown to lead to significant cost savings and decreased wait times.

The researchers at CHE are from a variety of different backgrounds, but they have come together to optimize healthcare delivery, decision-making, and policy. Through their research and direct collaboration with industry partners, CHE is also making strides in educating the next generation of healthcare engineers.

A Brief Definition of Systems Engineering

Systems engineering combines multidisciplinary knowledge to analyze a process and identify ways to improve its’ efficiency. Historically, it is rooted in industrial engineering, which is used to examine the most efficient layouts for manufacturing facilities.

Today, many teams, like the one at CHE, use systems engineering to include virtually any discipline that is linked to the process that they’re trying to build or improve. When it comes to healthcare, the team at CHE includes researchers with expertise in the fields of public healthy, business, law, political science, and more.

Real-Life Research Examples

Most recently, Chan and Professor Michael Carter, from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, worked to completely redesign the entire scheduling system to improve efficiency at the clinics at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. By realigning clinic schedules to balance resources in an improved manner, Chan and Carter were able to minimize the wait time for both patients and staff at the clinic.

Looking Ahead

As they look into the future, Chan sees ample room for expansion well beyond the CHE’s current home in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. They are taking an active role in recruiting researchers and students from all over the U of T campus, from a diverse collection of academic backgrounds. By incorporating more diverse perspectives, taking on more collaborative projects, facilitating industry engagement, and creating more opportunities for students, Chan and the team at CHE hope to improve healthcare for everyone around the world.

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Posted by: DSR
Monday, February 2, 2015
Tag: Healthcare
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