Systems Science and Engineering

image of clinical healthcare

Transforming healthcare requires much more than simply developing new drugs, medical devices or even treatments. It means studying the way things are used, how things are done, where events occur, and when they should be done so that the total system can be improved.

For example, almost everyone has had the experience of waiting to see a doctor. How do you schedule patients for exams, tests, or even treatments so that wait time is minimized, they are treated quickly and efficiently, and doctors and nurses are not overworked? Everyone knows that the sooner emergency treatment begins with someone who has suffered a heart attack, stroke, or been in an accident, the better the outcome. How can you best position your emergency responders to cover a given area, and what is the best way to flow people needing treatment through an emergency room? Hospital stays, and even doctor visits, are expensive. Are there ways to improve operations so as to reduce costs while improving the quality of care? How do you design a system to adapt to changing technologies and methodologies so that cutting-edge care is quickly adopted?

Systems science and engineering provides these solutions by studying operations and using complex mathematical modeling, operations research and systems analysis techniques. From the layout of an operating room and even the placement of instruments on a tray to examining how patients flow through the system, improvements can be identified that reduce costs, improve treatments and outcomes, and eliminate other problems so that the process of healthcare can be revolutionized in much the same way as the means of diagnosis and treatment. The Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering is taking the lead in this critical area so that the complete care-giving process can benefit.