Amy Cohn, U-M Industrial and Operations Engineering professor, has received funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to research staffing issues in Michigan’s state hospital system.
“When care providers are understaffed at a state hospital, the potential risk of harm to both patients and caregivers increases,” said Cohn. “This can also lead to increases in absenteeism, which can spiral.”
Cohn and a multidisciplinary research team of U-M students will explore how absenteeism impacts the risk of hospital staff being injured by their patients while administering care during their shift. The team will then use this information to develop a staffing system that can improve the safety of both patients and their caregivers.
“We’re dealing with some of the state’s most vulnerable and in-need patients,” said Cohn. “It’s incredibly rewarding to apply our engineering skills in such a direct way that’s going to help people who really need it.”
The research team will use simulation tools to understand the impact of variability and uncertainty on staffing levels and how these staffing levels, in turn, affect the risk of incidents of harm, then use optimization techniques to develop improved staffing schedules to reduce these risks.
The U-M students who will be involved include Jordan Goodman, a U-M IOE master’s student whose studies focus on healthcare applications; DucMinh Ngo, a U-M Computer Science undergraduate; Nikita Ramachandran, a Public Health master’s student; and Matt See, an undergraduate in Chemistry.
The group will work with Dr. George Mellos, the lead psychiatrist and deputy director for the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Amy Cohn is an Alfred F. Thurnau Professor in U-M IOE in addition to being the Associate Director of the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety (CHEPS). Her primary research interests are in applications of combinatorial optimization, particularly to healthcare and aviation.