GNYHA’s recent webinar highlighted how systems engineers supported hospital operations during the unprecedented patient surge caused by COVID-19 and ways they can help redesign the future of care delivery. Systems engineering offers advanced analytics and management techniques that help hospitals achieve clinical and operational excellence. GNYHA facilitates a Health Care Systems Engineering Community of Practice forum to support hospitals that invest in this unique and valuable discipline, as well as those interested in learning more about the application of systems science in the health care field.

“COVID-19 was a training to prepare us for the next pandemic,” said moderator Mohammad Khasawneh, PhD, Professor and Chair of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering and Director of the Healthcare Systems Engineering Center at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Dr. Khasawneh noted that COVID-19 showed hospitals the critical need to invest in systems engineering, which can help during pandemics to rapidly and accurately balance demand and capacity. “We depend on data and facts to protect the public … (systems engineering) is more important than ever before,” he said, adding that this is especially the case considering that another wave of COVID-19 could befall the State. Dr. Khasawneh is a frequent contributor to GNYHA’s Community of Practice.

Greg Servis, Senior Director, Mount Sinai Health System Department of Strategic Operations and Implementation, and Asala Erekat, PhD candidate, Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering, State University of New York at Binghamton, discussed how Mount Sinai used predictive modeling to plan for the pandemic in terms of number of COVID-19 patients and staffing and supply needs. Modeling helped the system expand its bed capacity by 150% and allowed it to never run out of personal protective equipment (PPE), even when daily PPE needs reached 16,360. It also helped the system to have sufficient N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns.

Design and architecture firm Ewing Cole’s Debbie Phillips, American Institute of Architects, Senior Medical Planner; Farouq Halawa, PhD, Senior Research Associate, Healthcare Improvement and Design Analytics; and Alice Gittler, Director of Healthcare Design Research, discussed a case study about using simulation modeling to adapt existing and temporary clinical space needs within and adjacent to the emergency department (ED) to meet the peak COVID-19 patient surges and ED volume. The study addressed expected demand; capacity needs for screening and treatment; capacity needs for inpatient beds; and how to minimize the risk of additional COVID-19 transmission.