Northeastern healthcare systems engineering program receives major innovation award

Healthcare reform has been the focus of intensive national debate, as policymakers work to control spiraling medical costs while extending coverage to millions of uninsured
Americans. The recently upheld Affordable Care Act includes a wide variety of provisions designed to make medical care more accessible, affordable, and responsive to the healthcare needs of all Americans. These provisions include funding to develop and test new models of service delivery/payment improvements that promise rapid results to achieve these policy goals.

A recently announced award from the new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation will fund Northeastern’s launch of a 3-year, $8 million demonstration project that integrates industrial and systems engineering (ISE) methods into healthcare delivery. Jim Benneyan (above), professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and director of Northeastern’s two established, federally awarded healthcare systems engineering centers, will direct the new center.

Benneyan explained that under the innovation award, Northeastern will establish a regional systems engineering extension center that will embed ISE improvement methods used in other complex industries into local healthcare organizations. Engineers and healthcare professionals will be cross trained in applying these methods to important healthcare problems, and will work together in engineer clinician project teams, integrating industrial engineers directly into health systems.

The project will launch a network of similar centers across the country, starting in Massachusetts in year one and then expanding to Washington and North Carolina, where Northeastern has graduate campuses.

The appeal of these improvements is easily apparent to healthcare providers and insurers, who will be held more accountable for quality and cost of care as healthcare reform rolls out, and whose reimbursements will increasingly be tied to patient outcomes. "Our overall goal is to measurably demonstrate the value of this model to significantly lower costs, improve access, and achieve better outcomes, leading to better care and higher patient safety," Benneyan described. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation estimates the projected 3-year savings from the project will be $60,780,907.