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Dr. Terry Theman, Adjunct Faculty

Dr. Terry Theman

TAMING VARIANCE IN THE OPERATING ROOM

Surgeons and Engineers have a lot in common.  As a surgeon I was a perfectionist.  I wanted no surprises in the Operating Room or during the recovery process.  Medical “surprises” are unpleasant in addition to being time-consuming to repair.

Of course, it is in the nature of Medicine to be complex and unpredictable, which leads to a certain occurrence of “surprises”.  Engineers call this “variance”, and they have the education and tools to manage it.  Physicians are not as well prepared to deal with variance.  As a result a variety of “band-aid” measures get applied when medical treatments do not go as planned, and the larger ‘Systems Issues’ go unaddressed.

It is the disciplined thought process (as well as a fabulous ‘tool kit’) that sets Engineers apart from most other fields.  This attribute permits Engineers to make complex processes function more effectively and efficiently.  For this reason I believe that Healthcare Systems Engineering is the key to future improvement in American Healthcare.