A New Partnership Between Systems Engineering and Health Care
The United States has some of the most dominant medical practices in the world. However, even though the U.S. healthcare systems provides high quality, these practices are not cost effective (Reid, Compton and Grossman 11). This is a major problem considering one of the main objectives of a health care system is to delivers services that are cost effective (Khasawneh 11). In order to combat this problem, Systems Engineering is becoming more and more prominent in a health care setting.
Although the U.S. provides relatively high quality care, it is nowhere near the level of quality that it should be. Many patients believe they should be receiving better treatment and 75% of them think the health care system is a “nightmare” according to one survey (Reid, Compton and Grossman 12). The delivery system can be extremely redundant and fragmented at times (Reid, Compton and Grossman 12). This has a direct impact on the extremely high costs. This escalating cost creates a chain reaction and results in worse/no health care benefits with higher co-pays/deductibles (Reid, Compton and Grossman 12). To this day, affordable health care is a major topic of political discussion and the U.S. is yet to find an answer.
The causes of this health care crisis can be boiled down to a few things: rapid technological advances, orientation of delivery system, U.S. market structure, lack of communication technology, and a lack of engineering practices (Reid, Compton and Grossman 12). Although technological advances in the health sector are necessary for improvement, they also create a lot of problems. Patients begin to have higher expectations which can lower customer satisfaction if not properly treated. Technology also causes health care companies to have a lot more information and data to deal with on a day to day basis (Reid, Compton and Grossman 12). There is also a large learning curve and a lot of unknows that come with newer technology, especially in a health care setting.
The next major problem in health care has to do with the structure of the industry. Due to the fact that many professionals specialize in a certain field, this has created a cottage-industry structure (Reid, Compton and Grossman 13). According to Merriam Webster, the definition of a cottage-industry is: “an industry whose labor force consists of family units or individuals working at home with their own equipment” (Merriam Webster). This is not exactly how the U.S. health care system operates, rather it means that hospitals and other medical facilities rely mostly on outside specialist. This independence and fragmentation can cause a lot of problems and slow down treatment time (Reid, Compton and Grossman 13).
The U.S. market structure for health care services can also be tied back to the current health care problems the country is facing. The real cost of health care stems from employers, federal government, and private insurers (Reid, Compton and Grossman 13). People want the best health insurance possible and new technological advances makes it more difficult for the insurance companies. They become pressured into covering new practices and techniques no matter the cost (Reid, Compton and Grossman 13). In doing so, they begin to control the prices by limited these services (Reid, Compton and Grossman 13).
Another major problem with health care has to do with the lack of information/communication technology. Surprising enough, the health care industry has some of the least use of information technology compared to other sectors in the U.S. (Reid, Compton and Grossman 14). Communication is a vital ingredient for success within an organization, and it is time for health care to catch up with the rest of the country’s practices. The financial, transportation, and manufacturing sector have been transformed by increased information technology and communication and health care must do the same (Reid, Compton and Grossman 14). However, this problem isn’t as easy to fix as it sounds. The cost is not so much the problem but rather it lies within the cottage structure that was mentioned before (Reid, Compton and Grossman 14). This makes it very difficult to implement some form of communication tool when there are so many private, specialized medical facilities around the U.S.
The final problem mentioned with the health care system has to do with the lack of systems engineering practices implemented. Systems engineering can be implemented to improve health care just like it has been implemented in manufacturing and other sectors that need continuous process improvement. The health care delivery system is extremely complex and involves a large number of personnel, organization of data and information, finances, sub-processes, etc. (Reid, Compton and Grossman 14). More forms of engineering practices and control tools need to be implemented, just as it is in other sectors (Reid, Compton and Grossman 14).
Ultimately, the U.S. healthcare system is a very complex system with a lot of internal problems inhibiting improvements in quality. Due to this, health care is extremely costly and has been an ongoing problem for a while. Although minor overall improvements are made each year, there is still a lot of work to be done.
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