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Hybrid field: healthcare, industrial engineering converge

Close up of a woman sitting at a table talking with others out of frame.

Patti Brennan, the Lillian L. Moehlman Bascom Professor in the School of Nursing and College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a presenter for the Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Series, discusses the intersecting fields of industrial engineering and healthcare with members of MU’s IMSE department in September 2012.

During her visit to MU, a presenter for the Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Series last September, Patricia Brennan, spent some time with the College of Engineering’s industrial and manufacturing systems engineering faculty members discussing the natural pairing of their professional field with nursing.

Brennan is a nationally-recognized healthcare professional who also has a foot in the industrial engineering door. She currently serves as the Lillian L. Moehlman Bascom Professor in the School of Nursing and College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

Brennan told the gathered faculty she constantly works to combine the two disciplines, looking for a model, a philosophy of workflow. In addition to reducing

risk level for uncompensated care — which lowers costs overall — Brennan identified other areas in which the two disciplines might complement each other, including ergonomics and physical therapy.

She said she is a great proponent of using technology to support patient health, from program planning, quality monitoring and evaluation to its potential use to effectively provide healthcare in rural areas.

“Health systems engineering students need exposure to computer science and information technology,” Brennan said.

Logistics also play an important role in building healthcare, according to Brennan. She cited energy management as an example. She pointed out energy costs account for 10 percent of healthcare costs overall.

“There are more places talking about linking IE and healthcare systems and what things need to take place to make this happen,” Brennan said. “I’m getting more requests to consult with nursing schools and industrial engineering,” she added, naming Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Washington as programs she has worked with.