Group for Research in Decision Analysis

Operations Research in Health Care

Michael W. Carter Canadian Operational Research Society, Canada

Health Care is the number one industry in North America; bigger than automotive, telecommunications or steel. Total spending in Canada in 2003 was $121 billion CN (under $3,000 US per person) or close to 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2003 in the U.S., spending was $1.6 trillion dollars US ($5,635 US per person), close to 15% of the GDP. The US spends far more than any other country (as a percent of GDP). Health care systems all over the world are in the midst of a serious financial crisis, and the situation will likely get worse in the next few years. Demand is going up as the population ages, and costs are increasing as the drugs and technologies continue to get more complex and expensive. Of course, it would help if there were more money available. However, I also firmly believe that the health care industry could be run a lot more efficiently. In a nutshell, operations research (O.R.) is the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions. O.R. tools can help the health care industry improve quality, reduce costs, improve effectiveness and increase efficiency. Over the past 16 years, I have supervised over 150 engineering students on more than 100 projects in health care. In the past four years, hospitals have hired over 40 of my students. In this talk, I will describe a few examples, discuss opportunities, and outline where I believe that we need to go in the future.