A key element of the panel’s discussion was the notion of interfaces between engineers and providers, and among multiple processes. Cortese discussed the importance of medical school admissions selection criteria to ensure that medical education and training include fundamental engineering concepts. He provided the Mayo medical school as an example of a medical school where the size will not increase until the training program adds incrementally to historical practices. American health care is not lacking for resources, Conlon said. Those resources are probably abundant, but they suffer from poor distribution and use. He spoke of the importance of the intersection of engineering with health care in helping to build an understanding of the systems we use for creating the product that at this point is so rife with inefficiency and waste.
Lowery-North also highlighted the gap in uptake of healthcare engineers. He attributed it to language differences between medicine and health care. Fortifying the interface between health care and engineering will provide additional perspectives on the opportunities in health care for accelerated improvement. Cortese said that healthcare educators need to ensure there is a basic understanding of systems engineering in their programs and that their students, the future healthcare practitioners, need to understand how to handle data, turn it into information, and turn that information into knowledge, as well as effective communication tools. Cortese also indicated that engineering schools can play an important role in integrating health information training into engineering curriculums and master’s and postgraduate programs through relationships developed with academic medical centers. The Regenstrief Institute at Purdue has one such program; other examples can be found at Georgia Tech, the University of Wisconsin, and North Carolina State.
The roles of the federal government and the private sector could be to create multidisciplinary centers to address issues of quality, value, and waste. Such centers could link the work of researchers, practitioners, educators, and engineers, and could include both basic and applied research, according to Cortese. The centers could demonstrate and disseminate tools, technologies, and knowledge, and they could perhaps identify a federal agency to take a lead role. Perhaps the government and private sources could ensure stable and adequate funding. Such an approach could help overcome barriers to the application of systems engineering, information