The application of Systems Engineering in the process to develop health solutions is imperative to successful innovation and design. With this background, I will now describe the process a systems engineer undertakes in a health care improvement project. There are six fundamental steps, which are conducted iteratively. Each of the six will be briefly described.
Developing an understanding of systems engineering will allow the students to think about the big picture for their innovations. Wikipedia defines systems engineering as an interdisciplinary field of engineering and engineering management that focuses on how to design and manage complex systems over their life cycles. At its core, systems engineering utilizes systems thinking principles to organize this body of knowledge. The individual outcome of such efforts, an engineered system, can be defined as a combination of components that work in synergy to collectively perform a useful function.
- Define system purpose and scope, specify required functions and resource types, and develop relevant performance measures along with desired performance thresholds.
- Specify, collect, and develop required data through data collection methods.
- Design, validate, and verify appropriate system models - This involves selecting the right modeling tools, building and validating the model.
- Use the model to learn about system behavior to find the best design alternative. The engineer often develops appropriate experiments for studying the model and analyzing the results.
- Use the results of step 4 to determine how to configure the system for best performance. This involves specifying equipment requirements, staffing levels and patterns, scheduling procedures, workflows, and so forth. Sensitivity analysis is also important to determine how system performance will be affected by perturbations to nominal conditions.
- Develop implementation and evaluation plans and coordinate their performance.
With these six steps in mind, some of the most important engineering methods are listed below with a brief explanation. Many of these originate from the discipline of Industrial Engineering, which is often synonymous with Systems Engineering.