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Many industrial engineers working in healthcare have fretted about how hard it is to convince medical personnel that change is good. According to David Belson-the adjunct professor of Industrial and System Engineers at the University of Southern California, the hardest part to improve processes and patient care at the rural hospitals is to change their habits on workplace. Belson and his students have made improvement in cutting wait times and reducing waste by encouraging the healthcare personnel to determine what they need to do, what they don’t need to do, what they can throw out or keep, eliminating bottlenecks and better scheduling.

Various experts have estimated that between 40 percent to 60 percent of healthcare costs are waste. But, Belson said that it is hard to quantify what eliminating a job, a form or waste saves. The bill for a foot surgery might be $5.000, but the hospital won’t have a breakdown for the inputs used to come up with that price. To keep costs of the outreach program down, Belson’s team use interactive video training through the Vitterbi School of Engineering’s distance learning network, along with site visits. And, he has found, people often pay more attention when you are in the room with them at a meeting, as opposed to viewing a video online. Belson hopes that the grants keep coming. He gets the feeling that he is accomplishing some social good by helping smaller hospitals survive and maybe thrive.