PCAST Touts Systems Engineering To Improve Care, Lower Costs

May 30, 2014 in News

The U.S. health care industry should adopt a systems-engineering approach used in other industries to improve the health data infrastructure and boost overall quality and delivery of care, according to a report released Thursday by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Modern Healthcare reports (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 5/29).

Report Details

The report, titled “Better Health Care and Lower Costs: Accelerating Improvement Through Systems Engineering,” was developed by PCAST in consultation with a working group that included several health care and engineering experts (Cassel et al., White House blog, 5/29).

According to Healthcare IT News, systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach that has been successfully used in the airline industry to analyze, design and manage complex systems to help reduce fatalities. The approach makes use of several tools to improve efficiency, reliability and productivity, including:

  • Alerts;
  • Checklists;
  • Flexible systems; and
  • Redundancies (Miliard, Healthcare IT News, 5/30).

Report Recommendations

In the report, PCAST identified fee-for-service payments and an inadequate health data infrastructure as the health care industry’s two biggest obstacles to quality health care (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 5/30).

The report provided seven recommendations aimed at helping the health care industry make use of systems engineering with the goal of achieving lower overall costs and higher quality of care (PCAST release, 5/29).

Those recommendations call on the health care industry to:

  1. Align payment incentives and reported data with better outcomes for individuals and populations;
  2. Speed up efforts to create a health data infrastructure in the U.S.;
  3. Provide national leadership in systems engineering through increased data supply to better gauge performance, understand the health of a community and analyze broader regional or national patterns;
  4. Increase technical assistance to health care professionals and communications using systems methods for three to five years;
  5. Create awards, challenges and prizes that help promote the use of systems, methods and tools in health care; and
  6. Establish competencies and workforce to redesign health care (Healthcare IT News, 5/30).

The report stated that although systems-engineering approaches have “often produced dramatically positive results in the small number of health care organizations that have incorporated it into their processes,” such systems and tools are not yet widely used by U.S. health care providers.

It noted, “Most clinicians were not trained in using systems-engineering approaches, and many clinicians may not even recognize that systems methods and tools could be helpful for improving care.”

Therefore, it also recommended offering technical assistance to health care providers in applying those methods and tools (Health Data Management, 5/30).

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