Sunday, November 15, 2009

eHealth Center Established

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently formed the “Center for eHealth Innovation and Process Transformation” (CeHIPT). There is a need for major ongoing projects to be developed to improve the use of electronic medical records and other HIT tools at civilian medical centers and the Veterans Administration.

The Center will integrate WPI’s research technology, in engineering, management, and process development to help healthcare organizations use new HIT systems and related technologies to improve patient care and institutional efficiency.

CeHIPT researchers have joined with colleagues at MIT, Northeastern University, and the VA New England Healthcare System to form the New England Healthcare Engineering Partnership (NEHCEP). The consortium is funded by the VA with $3.4 million annually to apply engineering principles to improve patient care at the VA’s hospitals and clinics in New England.

Through the consortium, WPI faculty and students will be analyzing the VA’s extensive clinical and operational data and processes to design and implement systems changes. Changes are needed to improve functional areas, including bedside, colorectal cancer care, and the administrative processes for compensating disabled veterans.

Housed within the Boston VA Healthcare System, NEHCEP will serve the New England network of eight medical centers and 37 community-based outpatient clinics, which provide care to 1.2 million veterans.

Industrial engineering methods will be studied such as the Toyota Production System, GE six-sigma, and Lean manufacturing tools plus more advanced mathematical and computer modeling methods. In healthcare, these methods could be used to radically improve such concerns as access, waits and delays, safety, optimal care, efficiency, equity, and effectiveness. These are the six national healthcare priorities identified by the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.

In another project, the CeHIPT faculty is undertaking a three year international study funded with $750,000 available through the National Science Foundation. The funding is available to examine and analyze how implementing HIT systems in primary care settings affects medical providers, their patients, and the healthcare delivery system. The researchers are looking at HIT implementations, the roll-out of the systems in various locations, and how management and the staff can adapt to the new systems and tools.

In the U.S., the study is focusing on two organizations including Fallon Clinic in Massachusetts, a large group medical practice, and UMass Memorial Health Care, an integrated medical system that includes 700 primary care physicians, several community hospitals, and an academic medical center.

In Canada, the study will examine the primary care offices of the Vancouver Coastal Health District. While in Israel, the study will examine primary care practices in two of the health funds in the country.