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Transforming healthcare delivery

Lehigh's healthcare systems engineering program is 'in action' here in the Lehigh Valley

Michael Kimball '13G has been named founding director of management engineering at St. Luke's University Health Network. This position entails improving workflow and scheduling practices within healthcare delivery.

Through systems engineering tactics, Kimball aims to improve the patient experience while driving down costs. He plans the strategic direction of St. Luke's management engineering department and determines its role within the company.

Kimball has worked at St. Luke's for 16 months since earning his M.Eng. in Healthcare Systems Engineering. Before this position, he was a senior management engineer.

The management engineering department combines continuous improvement concepts like Lean, Plan-Do-Check-Act and Six Sigma with engineering skills like optimization, simulation and predictive analytics. This department is responsible for the entire health network, which means its employees can make improvements in areas ranging from hospital divisions and physician practices to finance and supply chain.

Kimball and his team manage productivity and benchmarking measurements to help control labor costs, as these often account for 50 to 70 percent of the health network's expenses. They're currently focusing on operational workflows and assisting the clinical staff with the clinical care delivery process.

The department's successful projects have led to a high demand for its assistance. Kimball has the responsibility of working with executive leadership to identify which projects will have significant impact, and applying those projects to the company's short- and long-term strategies.

Lehigh's healthcare systems engineering program provided Kimball with the tools to work at St. Luke's. His coursework delved into quality improvement methods, financial concepts and the information technology used in the healthcare industry. Blending these topics with general engineering classes made him a desirable candidate in the field.

"HSE graduates can walk into a healthcare organization with a leg up on traditional candidates," reports HSE director Ana Alexandrescu '10. "They know the vocabulary and infrastructure of healthcare management while possessing deep engineering skills required to make lasting impact."

Lehigh's HSE program targets existing healthcare professionals and those who want to break into the industry. Those with a clinical background learn engineering, and those with an ISE background learn about healthcare.

The program also requires students to participate in projects with existing healthcare organizations. From working in the field, Kimball discovered the uniqueness of systems engineering and its significance to the economy.

Healthcare management engineers focus on streamlining workflows and making the business of running a hospital move more simply, quickly, and with less error. Kimball and his team find solutions that will lead to cost savings for patients and healthcare concerns alike.

-Gabby Romano '16 is a student-writer with the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

November 23, 2015

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