Encouraging Management Engineering in Safety Net Hospitals

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David Belson
University of Southern California

Management Engineering can be done more efficiently when several projects are done simultaneously. The University of Southern California developed process improvements with several Safety Net hospitals. Significant daily patient throughput in radiology was achieved as well as better awareness of management engineering by hospital management.

The School of Engineering at the University of Southern California was funded by a grant from the California HealthCare Foundation to conduct projects demonstrating the usefulness of management engineering. The process was initiated by an RFP issued to California Safety Net and Critical Access Hospitals and three of the requested projects were selected.

The projects are now complete and significant measurable improvements occurred in the areas identified as high priority by hospital management. It turned out that the individual project steps were very similar among the hospitals, even though the hospitals themselves were quite different. Many of the recommendations were the same among the three hospitals. The projects themselves were all in the area of radiology. Economies of scale were achieved by doing a similar project in multiple locations at the same time.

The individual projects included the use of process improvement techniques and how to maximize real impact. Changes required organization of teams, process simulation and focus groups as well as other traditional management engineering methods of analysis. One of the objectives was to improve the awareness of management engineering by hospital decision makers. The focus was on hospitals used by underinsured populations.