article Fall 2020

QSI Lab — Improving Patient Care at UW Health

The Quality Safety and Improvement (QSI) lab is a student-driven research group that partners with UW-Health on projects that improve patient care.

Jack Grahek started off his undergraduate career studying Biomedical Engineering (BME), when he realized that he was interested more in the process of healthcare than the actual practice. As a result, he switched gears to Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) and developed a passion for Health Systems Engineering, which is a growing field that combines engineering analysis with human factors related to healthcare. When Grahek was a Sophomore, he saw the Quality Safety and Improvement (QSI) Lab as an opportunity to apply theory to practice, specifically in increasing efficiency in the delivery of healthcare. He decided to join the lab as a project support member.

Today, Grahek is a graduate student studying Industrial Engineering. This past spring semester was Grahek’s fifth semester in the lab where he led the lab with his co-project advisor, Allison Drees. As co-project advisors, they were responsible for overseeing several projects and reported directly to executives in the hospital. This past spring, the QSI Lab had five projects that were related to operations research and optimization, data analytics, patient safety, and process improvement.

“I joined the lab not knowing much about health systems engineering and now I’m aware of that it is directly tied to increasing value for patients”

– Jack Graheck

Obtaining the right qualitative and quantitative data is critical in identifying inefficiencies and improving processes so that hospitals can deliver more productive and efficient services to their patients. For instance, during Spring 2020, the QSI Lab conducted a large data analysis project to investigate how operating rooms are used in the American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH). One of the critical findings was the underutilized surgical time blocks. Mitigating this inefficiency relates to another QSI project to improve operating room turnover process, enabling the Department of Surgery to serve more patients.

As part of the project management and communication, the lab conducts weekly meetings with different stakeholders in the hospital ranging from the head of the emergency department to surgical technicians. “The lab is focused on enhancing stakeholder engagement and building relationships with key staff members throughout the UW Health system” Grahek says. Effective communication with stakeholder is critical to the success of the projects because stakeholders in the hospital enable the lab to access information and gain feedback that strengthens the lab’s recommendations.

In the spirit of having a strong stakeholder engagement, Grahek is particularly fond of building relationships with clinicians and patients through the QSI Lab. One of his past projects looked at how to improve a patient’s experience in the emergency room. “Being in the emergency room is not the most favorable situation for a lot of people,” Grahek admits. But, by finding the roots of dissatisfaction, he was very happy to see that a patient can have a better experience in the emergency room by redesigning staff communication patterns.

As for Fall 2020, the QSI Lab will not be actively working on projects due to the pandemic. “We look forward to partnering with dedicated staff across the UW-Health system in future semesters to support the organization’s mission to provide remarkable healthcare,” Grahek states.

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