VERC Industrial Collaboration
We envision NE-VERC as a learning, research, and practice community that partners academics from engineering, medicine, nursing, informatics, operations management, and social sciences with committed leadership, engaged staff, and expertise from across VISN 1. This Center is designed to invest our awarded resources - with 100% matching VISN 1 support - to innovate, teach, facilitate research, and spread successful high-impact applications of systems engineering and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Systems Redesign (SR) efforts. We also augment our core funding with external research support to enable our exceptional team to usefully expand the engineering improvement methods body of knowledge in ways that are of direct value to VHA. VISN 1 provides an outstanding environment for this innovative partnership, built on our long-standing leadership contributions and commitments to systems redesign, commitment of our other research centers, and world-class academic capabilities of our engineering partners.
This work involves strong partnerships with the Northeastern University (NU) Industrial Engineering and Operations Research healthcare program and research labs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Engineering Systems Division and Lean Advancement Initiative (LAI), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Industrial and Mechanical Engineering programs, and Boston University (BU) Schools of Public Health, Medicine, and Management. Within VISN 1, the VA Boston Healthcare System (VABHS: West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Brockton) serves as our lead VA partner, incubator, and test-bed given its proximity to our academic partners, experience in systems redesign, and relationships with our engineering faculty. VABHS has demonstrated excellent benefits from collaborations between engineering and medical staff in real life healthcare environments and success effectively managing and maximizing these relationships.
We also have developed core partnerships within VA research and quality domains, including the VA Quality Scholars Program (White River Junction VA), the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center (MAVERIC, Boston VA), the Center for Organization, Leadership, and Management Research (COLMR, Boston VA), and the VA Boston Healthcare System's (VABHS) quality improvement and patient safety rotation with the Boston University Internal Medicine Residency Program. Nursing is actively involved through the Northeast Regional VA Nursing Alliance (NERVANA), a learning and research collaboration between the Boston and Bedford VA medical centers and six area nursing schools – Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston, UMass Lowell, Boston College, Simmons College, and Regis College. Once NE-VERC is further developed, we also anticipate involving several additional interested partners within and outside the VA. To structure and manage our NE-VERC partnership we have built a strong executive team to direct the overall center, core staff to manage operations (project coordination, administrative support, training events, coop student management, et cetera), and engineering methods experts within our academic partners and VISN 1 organized into four primary Methods Cores.
Strategic guidance is provided by an Advisory Board of healthcare systems engineering experts, VA Systems Redesign, VA Office of Information and Technology, and VISN 1 leadership. Our center actively supports related VA national improvement efforts by collaborating with other VERCs, assisting with SR collaborative projects, hosting innovation events, sponsoring faculty exchanges and site visits, and working with the National SR Steering Committee. This overall partnership between engineering faculty, improvement innovation experts, and VISN leaders and staff maximizes the impact of systems engineering, measurably add direct value to VHA, and help build our capacity to become a self-improving healthcare system. Systems and industrial engineers use a variety of methods to model, analyze, predict, improve, and optimize performance of complex systems, often supported by informatics to harness information in new and innovative ways. Such tools however have proven insufficient if not focused and staffed effectively towards important problems, managed with constancy of purpose, positioned appropriately within an organization, and supported by senior leadership. Our NE-VERC structure and VISN 1’s deep strategic commitment to build an improvement culture provides these critical success factors.