Industrial Engineering Students Help Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Enhance Patient Experience

A team of industrial engineering students is helping Bascom Palmer Eye Institute enhance its patient experience. The collaborative year-long project with the College of Engineering focuses on the delivery of services in Bascom Palmer’s glaucoma and retinal clinics.

“This interdisciplinary partnership reflects our continued efforts to foster a culture of service excellence,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., Director of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It will give our leadership team a better understanding of our clinical processes and fresh insights into serving patients and families.”

Industrial engineering students Jacob Jankel, Adam Lawrence, Seanna Sicher and Teresa Van der Gaag began the study in January as their senior design project, under the guidance of Vincent Omachonu, professor of industrial engineering in the College of Engineering and professor of management in the School of Business.

“We want our students to have real-world opportunities to study business processes,” said Omachonu. “This project between the Department of Industrial Engineering and Bascom Palmer is giving them firsthand experience in the health care sector. Much of my own work has focused on the redesign of health care processes, and this collaborative approach can deliver tremendous value.”

Omachonu added that the process improvement project is designed to address all aspects of the Bascom Palmer patient experience, including registration and discharge processes, insurance verification, encounter wait times and valet parking service.

Unlike other services, ophthalmology appointments provide a one-stop service combining technical evaluation, diagnostic imaging, and physician assessment and intervention. “Our challenge is to provide an efficient and seamless patient experience given complex workflows and scheduling,” said Alfonso.

The four College of Engineering undergraduates conducted interviews, collected data and applied process improvement tools, such as Lean Six Sigma methodology. They also analyzed the workflows of physicians, technicians and other staff members to evaluate if changes to the design and layout would improve efficiency in the clinic service areas.

Lawrence, Sicher and Van der Gaag presented a preliminary report to Alfonso in April, before their graduation in May. The project will continue this summer with a team of three industrial engineering students from Brazil, followed by a third group of UM students in the fall semester, including Jankel, who will earn his degree in December 2016.

In preparation for the project, the leadership team interviewed 30 physicians, including faculty, fellows and residents among subspecialties at all Bascom Palmer facilities. Their input will be incorporated into the next phases of the project.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has been ranked the No. 1 eye hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report for 12 consecutive years. Bascom Palmer has also been recognized as having the best residency program in ophthalmology in the nation by, the largest online physician network.

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