Amy Cohn, Ph.D.
Dr. Cohn's collaborative research projects include work in: improving the safety and efficiency of outpatient chemotherapy infusion; increasing access to specialty clinic care; building better templates for scheduling colonoscopy patients to balance access, wait times, and procedure outcomes; and developing scheduling tools for medical residents to increase their access to key training opportunities (e.g. heart and lung transplant experience) and to improve schedule quality (e.g. through reductions in disruptive sleep patterns within shift schedules) to in turn improve quality of life, quality of patient care, and quality of educational experience. She is a member of IHPI’s Institute Leadership Team (ILT), and associate director of the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety (CHEPS).
- Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- A.B., Applied Mathematics, Harvard University
Health Services Research & Policy Focus
IHPI-Affiliated Centers and Programs
What are you thinking about?
I'm thinking about how engineers and clinicians can work together to dramatically impact the improvement of healthcare delivery. Healthcare delivery is an incredibly complex system, with tightly constrained resources, lots of uncertainty, many competing objectives, and extensive inter-dependencies throughout all aspects of the system. As such, engineers are well-suited to contribute, bringing to the table a valuable set of skills and a very different approach to problem solving. But significant barriers to success exist as well. Many of these barriers are knowledge-based: engineers need to know more about medicine and clinicians need to know more about engineering. Dramatic differences in communication styles and cultural norms can impede this knowledge transfer, and can impede collaboration in general. As a result, many opportunities for real impact go unrealized.
Why is this interesting to you?
My methodological background is in applied combinatorial optimization. I’m interested in scheduling problems, sequencing problems, logistics problems. The underlying structures of these problems are found throughout healthcare, so there are plenty of great engineering challenges. In addition, to be successful, I have to really invest in developing a deep knowledge within a new application domain - an application domain that fascinates me on a personal as well as an intellectual level. As a parent, the work I’m doing in pediatric emergency medicine is particularly satisfying.
What are the practical implications for healthcare?
Limitless! Since becoming the associate director of U-M’s Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety, I’ve been amazed to learn how many of my engineering colleagues are working on healthcare applications, or want to find a way to become involved in this field. Perhaps the only thing more inspiring is the numbers of clinicians I’ve met who eagerly want to engage with engineering. Both sides are willing to learn, willing to put the time in to overcome the barriers, and I think we are at a moment of great opportunity for fostering these collaborations.