Tales from The Big Easy – Healthcare Systems Process Improvement 2013 review

By Tze Chao Chiam, Ph.D.
UMass Memorial Healthcare
UMass Medical School

“SHS Conference in New Orleans? YES!!!” was my first thought when I learnt about this great conference to take place at a great city – and both did not disappoint. Even though this was my first visit to the conference, I had heard great things about it and had been looking forward to attending it.

Despite having multiple delayed flights on my way to The Big Easy, thus running late for a pre-registered event at the conference, I was grateful that I (and my colleagues and friends) arrived safely. To kick-off my participation at the conference, I attended a simulation dinner hosted by Simul8. As a researcher and practitioner in the healthcare industry using Industrial Engineering tools such as computer simulation, I was glad to see other examples of real-world problems solved by creative implementation of simulation outcomes. My Day 1 at the conference concluded with some great presentations as well as a great 3-course authentic New Orleans meal :-)

All 3 of my alarms went off at 630am of Day 2. Not being an early person, my biggest concern for the day was sleeping through my 8am presentation. Fortunately, I was able to counter the sleepy bug and made it to the morning networking session as well as my own presentation. As I was presenting a mammoth process redesign project that had a large impact on our hospital, I was glad to have the 50-min slot to convey to the audience major milestones from pre-work to post implementation, from utilizing computer simulation, statistical analysis, to Lean implementation.

Throughout my presentation as well as from post-presentation discussion, I had a chance to connect with multiple audience members, including clinicians, professors, researchers, architects, process improvement professionals and students. Being in the industry where silos are unfortunately still the norm, such multidisciplinary discussion was intellectually fulfilling and ought to be encouraged and facilitated more often in the industry.

Besides serving as a forum for high-quality presentations and discussions, SHS Conference also provided opportunities for networking as well as catching-up with friends and colleagues. I had the chance to get back in touch with friends from my college years, supervisor from my past internship, as well as making new connections with professionals that I might not have met otherwise.

Being a foodie, I took every opportunity to enjoy the great food a city had to offer. I had the chance to visit one of the best restaurants in town (think “The Next Iron Chef” finalist) as well as multiple candy stores in the French Quarter to satisfy my sweet tooth. A crawfish bisque, crab maison, crawfish etoufee, jambalaya, alligator po-boy, and multiple boxes of Creole pralines (to-go) later, I left SHS Conference and New Orleans satisfied – intellectually and “culinarily”.

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