Experts Say Engineering Principles Can Improve U.S. Health Care System

Identifying new applications of engineering and related research to improve health care delivery

From 2002 to 2005, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies jointly conducted a study to identify engineering tools and technologies that could improve the health care delivery system.

A committee of 14 engineers and health care professionals held two fact-finding workshops and, in 2005, produced a consensus report, Building a Better Delivery System: A New Engineering/Health Care Partnership.

Key Findings

  • Multiple, interconnected crises of quality, access and cost call for a systems approach to improving the "broken" U.S. health care system.

  • Systems engineering offers a large portfolio of tools that could potentially transform the quality and productivity of health care.

  • Modern information and communications systems are an essential complement to systems-engineering tools.

  • A vigorous partnership among the engineering, management and health fields will be required to accelerate the move to a systems approach to quality improvement in health care.

Key Recommendations

  • The federal government should establish 30 to 50 multidisciplinary centers for the study of health systems engineering at institutions of higher learning throughout the country.

  • Formal and continuing education programs should teach current and future health care, engineering and management professionals the value of using systems tools and technologies to address crises in the health care system.

  • Formal and continuing education programs should ensure that current and future health care, engineering and management professionals understand the systems challenges facing health care delivery and the value of using systems tools and technologies to address them.