(This post is part 2 of an interview with Dr Michael Carter. Part 1 can be found here)

Q: If you take a step back and look holistically at the healthcare industry in Canada as compared to the rest of the world, how are we doing?

The UK has done lots of really good operations research-type modeling on healthcare problems. They’re way ahead of us. The National Health Service in the UK, since the 1950′s, have had an operations research department with a few hundred people employed full time. We have nothing like that in Canada, and it’s quite disappointing.

I am, at the same time, very hopeful. When I started this about 20 years ago, I would go to a hospital and tell them I had students that would work for free. They’d say:  ”Go away, we’ve got no time”. But now, my phone is ringing off the hook. I’ll tell people that I need $10,000 to pay some graduate students to do the work and they’ll say: “Yes, that’s fine”. I think every major hospital in Toronto has a small group of engineers doing industrial engineering type work in process management, process improvement, simulation, etc. It’s changing at a snail’s pace, but there is a small group of people in every healthcare organization that understands what we are trying to do, and that believes in what we believe in. Continue reading

This week’s journalist is Curtiss Luong, a graduate student working for morLab at the University of Toronto. He is a moderator of this blog, and you can reach him at curtiss@mie.utoronto.ca.

In December 2012, I spoke with Dr. Michael Carter, a professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department at the University of Toronto, about healthcare in Canada.  Thoroughly entertaining, Dr Carter had some valuable insights on the state of healthcare systems in Canada.

Q: Operations research in hospitals – why is it important?

A: Simplistically, there’s a rule that says that healthcare is 20 years behind manufacturing and 15 years behind service industries. For example, lean is an important set of principles that has been used in manufacturing since the 80′s, but the health care industry in Canada has just recently, maybe 5 years ago, discovered lean. Most manufacturing-related companies understand supply chain management, capacity management, schedule optimization, etc. Healthcare has very little of that stuff.

Continue reading