Matt Christman, MD, Pediatric Urologist, Current HSE Student
During my surgical training, I was taught to always hold two instruments – one in each hand. Always anticipating the next step in the operation. Always ready for unexpected changes in course. As I progressed in my medical career, I became concerned that I was only holding one instrument. It’s one thing to know which antibiotic to prescribe or which incision to make for a surgical approach to improve an individual patient’s health. It’s another thing entirely to have the tools necessary to address the myriad of challenges confronting the healthcare system today: disparities of healthcare, inefficiencies in clinical practice affecting patient experiences, and skyrocketing costs, to name a few. To address these challenges our healthcare organizations will need to rely on engineers to construct systems that better manage our resources and enable physicians to deliver much-needed quality care.
The education I obtained through the Healthcare Systems Engineering program at Lehigh has been put to quick use and has made a significant impact on my practice. Utilizing tools from my class on healthcare information technology I was able to build a surgical quality improvement database that was used to track outcomes during humanitarian surgical missions. This information has played an important role in improving the quality of care provided through analysis and self-critique of our results. With the information I learned in my class on healthcare quality, I was able to complete a project on patient tardiness for visits, highlighting challenges my hospital faces with patient parking. Tim Dougherty (another student in the program) and I also recently collaborated on a project within my own clinic, aimed at decreasing the time from the initial consultation requests from the primary care provider until the appointments in my clinic. A variety of clinic inefficiencies were identified as our processes were leaned down to a more efficient model, enabling provision of more timely care.
Historically, many of the greatest advances in health have occurred when the fields of engineering and medicine converged. The current state of healthcare is ripe with these opportunities for engineers and this program provides a unique and dynamic education for this intersection. Indeed, the HSE program has given me the instrument for my other hand.
Matt Christman is Pediatric Urologist in The Naval Medical Center, San Diego, California. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1998 and continued on to Georgetown School of Medicine. He is expected to receive his MEng in HSE in 2017.