INFORMS NEWS: Roundtable focuses on ‘healthcare analytics’

By Shailendra Jain

The 2012 Roundtable fall meeting was held at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix (Ariz.) in conjunction with the INFORMS annual meeting. The traditional Roundtable welcome outing featured a day at the Turf Paradise, the famous horse-racing venue of Arizona.

The Roundtable meeting theme was “Healthcare Analytics,” and the program included seven presentations from leaders in this subject matter both from industry and academia. Considering the tremendous cost pressures in the healthcare industry both in United States and around the world, the presentations offered good insights on the growth opportunities for applied research and applications of O.R. in the healthcare area.  

The program began with a keynote presentation by Robert Smoldt, emeritus chief administrative officer of the Mayo Clinic, associate director of the Arizona State University Healthcare Delivery & Policy Program, and author of the book, “Roadmap to High-Value Healthcare Delivery.” Smoldt shared several key insights on the quality of healthcare delivered in United States, noting that the U.S. health system produces some of the best care in the world, but it also produces uneven results across the population as a whole.

Janine Kamath (division chair of Systems and Procedures) and Professor Tom Rohleder made a presentation on O.R. applications at the Mayo Clinic, where they both work. They also discussed the role that an internal business consulting group such as Systems and Procedures plays in ensuring project success. Kamath summarized a few novel applications, including facility planning and design for the proton beam treatment center, appointment forecasting and health system staff planning. Kamath also presented the vision for how O.R. will continue to assist with several major transformations at Mayo Clinic in areas such as the outpatient practice, inpatient mortality and primary care.

Haiyan Wang, senior scientist at HP Labs, followed with a presentation on an integrated operating room scheduling and planning system. The widespread deployment of electronic medical record (EMR) systems are starting to provide rich data sources for analysis and optimization and thereby create an important foundation for improving operation efficiency at hospitals. Wang shared a joint project with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH) at Stanford University to develop an O.R. planning and scheduling system. The system is based on optimization and simulation models and has the capability to predict the usage of each resource, and hence gives the ability to plan for anticipated bottlenecks before they actually occur. Wang also presented a surgery sequencing module and resulting performance improvement data.

Dr. Wei-Nchih Lee, M.D., with joint appointment at HP Labs and the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, spoke on meaningful use of EMR data with a framework of knowledge-based temporal analytic methods. The new patient care data contained within electronic medical records provides the computational foundation to build the rapid learning healthcare system, in which the delivery of healthcare with an entire institution improves dynamically by transforming the data into knowledge about which clinical practices are most effective. A crucial component of the rapid learning healthcare system is an understanding of clinical practice variations in medicine. Taking across the entire population, practice variations offer valuable insight into the behaviors and beliefs of an institution.

Juergen Klenk, principal with Booz Allen Hamilton, presented an application of predictive analytics to the detection of disease onset and clinical states through the use of electronic medical records. The framework presented aims to improve prediction of a patient’s risk for developing severe sepsis and septic shock through a risk score generated as a function of measurements of patient vitals over time. According to Klenk, the predictive model can also be generalized to predict outcomes of other application domains.

Eva Lee, professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and director of the Center for O.R. in Medicine and Health Care, shared opportunities and case studies based on innovative advanced analytics to improve healthcare delivery. In particular, she covered three topics in healthcare services and delivery: 1) modeling and optimizing the clinic workflow; 2) reducing medication errors, and 3) predicting readmission and resource allocation for cost-effective care.

In the final talk, Amy Cohn, associate professor at the University of Michigan and associate director of the university’s Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety, shared the challenges and opportunities in applying OR/MS tools to improve healthcare delivery. Cohn outlined six major goals for the U.S. healthcare system (safe, effective, timely, patient-centered, efficient and equitable). She shared the obstacles the country faces in meeting these goals, and emphasized the importance of “a vigorous new partnership” between engineering and healthcare to overcome these challenges.

Cohn says that the OR/MS community is well positioned to take a leading role in this new partnership, with its systems perspective and ability to translate complex real-world problems into mathematical models that can be analyzed and optimized. But to succeed, many unique aspects of working in healthcare must be taken into consideration, including: (a) becoming “bi-lingual” so as to effectively communicate with healthcare providers; (b) identifying and deeply understanding critical challenges in the healthcare system; (c) developing innovative solutions, often requiring the creation of novel models, algorithms and simulation-based tools; (d) overcoming barriers that limit the implementation of these solutions; and (e) educating both OR/MS practitioners and healthcare providers so as to foster ongoing and widespread successful collaborations.

The Roundtable also held its traditional annual meeting with the INFORMS Board of Directors. INFORMS President-Elect (now President) Anne Robinson discussed the Institute’s strategy around analytics, INFORMS Board member Jack Levis led a discussion on INFORMS Analytics Certification Program and INFORMS Past President Rina Schneur led a discussion on the Institute’s continuing education program.