Univ. Texas Master of Public Health Program Teaches Lean Concepts With Process Simulator

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Michael H. Kennedy PhD, MHA, FACHE Assoc Prof & Chair Dept of Healthcare Policy, Economics and Management University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler

I was first exposed to ProModel simulation products as an alternative to GPSS-H when earning my doctorate in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic University from 1988 – 1992.  I taught one simulation course as a graduate elective for the U.S. Army-Baylor University Graduate Program in Healthcare Administration soon after graduation.  Since then, I have employed MedModel as a component of several health administration courses, with simulation comprising approximately one-third of the course content.  Simulation modeling is a wonderful tool to reinforce concepts from statistics and probability such as the effects of random variation, practical application of probability distributions, and employment of goodness-of-fit testing.

After I arrived in January 2017 at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler to begin teaching in our Master of Public Health Program, I decided to revise my approach to teaching quality.  Previous iterations of my quality course had generally proceeded as follows:

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Content was taught face-to-face and students used their laptops to create process analysis tools and control charts with me in class.

My decision to include Lean in the quality course provided the opportunity to learn and teach Process Simulator, another ProModel product.  Process Simulator operates as an add-in to Visio.  I couldn’t think of a better way to teach flow than to have students build process flow diagrams in Visio and then to model the flow of entities through the system using Process Simulator.  The revised course proceeded as follows:

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The first process model was built after an introduction to M/M/1 queuing formulas in an exercise to establish the correspondence between queuing and simulation.  I modified a problem provided by Ragsdale (2004) to model Acme Pharmacy which has one pharmacist with the capacity to fill prescriptions from 12 customers per hour.  The pharmacy averages 10 customers per hour seeking to fill prescriptions.  Students used an M/M/1 Excel template to compute and characterize Acme Pharmacy operations and to record queuing formula and simulation results.  The Process Simulator model looked like this:

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The comparison of the first two columns of Table 1 between queuing results and simulation results confused me until I remembered that the M/M/1 queuing formulas represented a steady state solution.  An 8-hour run with 20 replications shown in the third column produced results more closely aligned, but not as close as expected.

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Table 1.  Comparing Queuing and Process Simulator Results                                                        Note – Expected times have been converted from hours to minutes.

An extended 2080-hour run and an 8-hour run after an 8-hour warm-up were also subsequently modeled to determine if those efforts to move the system towards steady state produced results more closely aligned with queuing formula results.  The results in the last two columns showed that to be true.

During the remainder of the course, Lean principles were reinforced with a variety of Process Simulator models.

Reference

Ragsdale, C. T. (2004). Spreadsheet modeling and decision analysis: A practical introduction to business analytics (4th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.

About Dr. Michael H. Kennedy

Dr. Michael H. Kennedy, FACHE, arrived at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler on January 23, 2017 to begin service as an Associate Professor in the Department of Healthcare Policy, Economics and Management in the School of Community and Rural Health. He has 42 years’ experience in teaching and health services administration that have been divided between academic positions and operational assignments in the military health system as a human resources manager, equal opportunity advisor, ambulatory care administrator, and other positions of leadership culminating as the Chief Operating Officer of a small military hospital.

In past academic assignments, Dr. Kennedy has served as Director of the Health Services Management Program at East Carolina University, Director of the Doctor of Health Administration Program at Central Michigan University, and Associate Professor in the Health Services Administration Program at Slippery Rock University. Dr. Kennedy was also Deputy Director of the U.S. Army-Baylor University Graduate Program in Healthcare Administration where he was twice selected by the students as Instructor of the Year.

Dr. Kennedy is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.  He was appointed as Chair of the Department of Healthcare Policy, Economics and Management on September 1, 2018.

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