Local VA Gets $3.6 Million to Partner With Pitt on New Veterans Engineering Resource Center

Issue Date: 
June 7, 2010

VA-PittsburghThe VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS) received a three-year, $3.6 million federal award to work with University of Pittsburgh researchers on a new center to streamline the delivery of health care services to local veterans by applying engineering and systems-improvement principles.

The new center, the Veterans Engineering Resource Center (VERC), was one of only four such centers nationwide supported by a grant from the U.S. Veterans Health Administration. VERC director Robert Monte will lead the initiative at VAPHS alongside VAPHS chief of staff Rajiv Jain and VAPHS associate director Bonnie Graham.

Pitt’s VERC team includes principal investigator Andrew Schaefer and coprincipal investigator Jay Rajgopal, both professors in the Department of Industrial Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, joined by researchers in Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), and School of Medicine.

The VERC at VAPHS has been created to empower health care teams to work more efficiently and effectively, thereby providing veterans with the best care and services possible. The VERC projects will use engineering models to simulate both the random and planned factors that determine the outcomes of medical situations. For example, for one project, the team will analyze the factors—including the patient’s condition and clinical and management decisions—that affect patient flow through intensive care units. Team members will attempt to establish the best strategies for making patient flow more efficient while maintaining high-quality care. Another project involves scheduling operating rooms more efficiently by, for instance, better predicting how long surgical operations will take.

One long-term aim of  VERC at VAPHS will be to create health care delivery models that will benefit facilities nationwide, in both the private and public sector. The VERC at VAPHS also plans to mold its educational collaboration into a permanent academic center at which teams who have implemented VERC’s successful engineering models will share their knowledge with VA colleagues and their professional counterparts throughout the country.

The VERC at VAPHS is multidisciplinary in scope and has been designed to sustain the existing educational collaboration between VAPHS and Pitt. Currently there are 25 students from GSPH working at VAPHS on health care system improvement projects.