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Engineering

Hallbeck helps lead $4.1M grant engineering health care improvements


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A $4.1 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will help the VA’s Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System establish the Midwest- Mountain Veterans Engineering Resource Center (MWM VERC) aimed at transforming health care.

Professor Susan Hallbeck with Industrial and Management Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will co-lead development of the MWM VERC with Dr. Peter Woodbridge, who will be the center’s director. Woodbridge is the associate chief of staff for Quality and Medical Effectiveness at the VA’s Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System and an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health.

Hallbeck joined UNL’s College of Engineering in 1989. Her research interests include development of laparoscopic surgical tools and methodology standardization for operating room medical device usability. She holds a courtesy appointment in surgery at UNMC and was a founding member of the Center for Advanced Surgical Technologies.

Hallbeck stressed that the VERC efforts were based on recommendations from the National Academy of Engineering and Institutes of Medicine to apply industrial engineering practices to improve America’s health care. She agreed with Woodbridge that the center’s staff will advance health care delivery excellence as well as develop a work force focused on continuous improvement.

“Industrial engineering methods, such as computerized models, simulations and ergonomics, can greatly enhance safety, effectiveness, timeliness and efficiency,” Hallbeck said. “In the health care setting, the impact can be better quality care and reduced costs.”

Hallbeck cited the MWM VERC proposal’s vision for a “healthcare work place of the future”--where well-engineered systems help workers achieve the highly interconnected goals of safe, effective, timely and efficient care; where workers have the knowledge, capabilities, and desire to continuously improve systems; and teamwork is the valued norm for achieving excellence. Hallbeck and IMSE colleague Paul Savory, UNL’s interim associate vice chancellor for Extended Education and Outreach, will work to develop courses that teach healthcare analysis. Savory said these courses potentially will lead to a new graduate certificate program, a new graduate degree, or be available as a non-credit opportunity for professional development.

The Omaha-based health care system is one of four VA medical centers nationwide that will host the resource centers; the other VERC locations are in Boston, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Participating VA medical centers in the Midwest-Mountain VERC area range from New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado to Texas, South Dakota, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Hallbeck said several health care schools are involved, including Creighton University Medical Center, UNMC and the University of Colorado-Denver. The University of Nebraska will also have a leadership role among participating engineering schools, which include the University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, Arizona State University, Montana State University, New Mexico State University and North Dakota State University.
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