Spotlight on Research at COPH — Dr. Peter Woodbridge leads the MidWest Mountain Veterans Engineering Resource Center (MWM VERC). The MWM VERC, one of
four Veterans Affairs (VA)-funded VERCS, is located in the Nebraska Western Iowa VA Health Care System, Omaha campus, which is affiliated with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). The VA established VERCs in 2008, in response to a joint report of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine that urged leaders and government agencies to support the formal incorporation of systems engineering tools and principles into health care delivery in the United States.
With core funding of $1.5 million per year and approximately the same amount in other grants and VA service contracts, the MWM VERC employs 18 staff and provides funding to 19 faculty and 18 graduate students in 10 affiliated universities that includes UNMC and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) College of Engineering. Since its initial funding in June 2009, the MWM VERC has engaged in 74 research projects, 36 of which have been completed. The MWM VERC recently underwent its triennial review and has been refunded for another three years. MWM VERC projects range from medical center-level improvements (e.g., call center simulation) to national transformational efforts (e.g., the development of a reliability analytics infrastructure, mail-out pharmacy optimization). Dr. Preethy Nayar, assistant professor in the COPH Department of Health Services Research and Administration, is working on one such transformational project—improving communication between VA and community physicians when they share responsibility for care of a veteran.
The MWM VERC is also working to prepare the health care workforce of the future. To that end, it has developed a four course, distance learning, graduate certificate program in health care analytics in partnership with the UNL College of Engineering. More than 400 VA employees from across the nation have enrolled in the program. The graduate certificate in health care analytics is the foundation of the VA’s efforts to become a “data-driven” health care services organization. The MWM VERC, in partnership with the Center for Applied Systems Engineering VERC, has also developed an educational program to disseminate Lean improvement throughout the Veterans Health Administration. In the past year, 1,044 VA employees have received Lean training from the MWM VERC.
Peter Woodbridge, MD, MBA, is an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Services Research and Administration, and the director of the Department of Veteran Affairs Midwest Mountain Veterans Engineering Resource Center.