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Industrial engineering practices boost health information technology

The health care industry can benefit from improvements adopted by industrial and systems engineering (ISyE) breakthroughs if those processes are applied in a consistent way, according to a report published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

ISyE techniques have been used in health care to make improvements on a small scale, such as creating efficient scheduling of patients in a small practice or decreasing waiting times in a hospital emergency department. But large-scale, widespread “breakthroughs” — or significant advances in the delivery of health care — as the result of better engineering are more complicated in the health industry, the AHRQ report concluded.

“The field of industrial and systems engineering has the potential to make significant contributions to achieving an ideal health care delivery system through use of tools, techniques and methods that allow for systematic development of solutions,” researchers wrote in the report, “Industrial and Systems Engineering and Health Care: Critical Areas of Research.”

Creating breakthrough change, however, requires a data-rich environment, something that’s lacking or disjointed in health care. The report suggests developing several information technology applications that the researchers believe will help, such as creating consumer-facing systems that allow patients to report their observations and capturing that data along with reports from physicians.

More information and better data capture that lead to interoperability among providers are breakthroughs that will push the industry forward, according to the report. “Existing ISyE techniques are data-dependent and current automatic data collection methods in health care are inadequate and lag behind other industries like manufacturing and aviation.”

The researchers might consider things like a patient portal or interoperable data breakthroughs in an industry lacking their use, but the federal government expects providers to implement systems that support such applications through its meaningful use criteria. Time is getting even tighter for doctors hoping to take advantage of all five years of incentives for electronic health records.

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