SIAM News Blog

Optimizing Healthcare

At the SIAM Conference on Optimization last month, Dr. Retsef Levi, J. Spencer Standish Professor of Management and professor of operations management at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, gave an invited lecture on “Optimizing and Coordinating Healthcare Networks and Markets.”

Recently, he sat down with SIAM for a Google Hangout interview to talk in detail about the use of optimization models in healthcare management.

Speaking about the importance of design and performance analysis of models arising in the context of health networks, Dr. Levi addressed the challenges faced by researchers in incorporating the complex dynamics of healthcare networks into optimization models.

Levi outlined important decisions that healthcare organizations have to make in order to best use their resources to deliver high quality outcomes to patients, as well as in making priorities under circumstances where resources can be scarce.

How do you take complex decisions and model them in a way that allows one to think carefully and rigorously about tradeoffs? Once you have a model, how do you translate and leverage it as a decision support tool? The need for such answers is what makes optimization a very natural fit in the area of healthcare administration, infrastructure and cost management.

Despite this, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt these strategies, not least because of the culture of the industry, as well as challenges faced by the inner workings of healthcare organizations, and the need to take into account key stakeholders: patients, healthcare workers and the institutions themselves.

Despite the potentially positive impact of optimization in this context, there are challenges faced by mathematicians and researchers as healthcare network optimization problems can typically be challenging in theory and practice. Levi spoke about how near-optimal policies can be provided for conceptually impractical models by describing to decision makers the tradeoffs and choices that need to be made.

Levi also spoke about the potential uses of optimization models in the management and implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the US (and other such ambitious healthcare plans).

Watch the interview!

At the SIAM Conference on Optimization in May 2014, Retsef Levi of the MIT Sloan School of Management spoke about "Optimizing and Coordinating Healthcare Networks and Markets" in an invited session.

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