Health and Health Systems

We have unique research strengths in Health and Medical Systems applications. Faculty research has focused on modeling emergency operations in hospitals, rapid product prototyping and nano-manufacturing methods for biomedical engineering, modeling the functional abilities of wheeled mobility device uses for rehabilitation engineering, and injury risk reduction to promote health.

This work has been funded by government agencies such as the Emergency Medicine Foundation, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Justice United States Access Board, and New York State Department of Health. Other sponsors include Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Saint Vincent Health Center, Greatbatch Technologies, Delphi Harrison, and Motorola Incorporated.

Affiliated faculty include Bisantz, Cavuoto, Lin, Nikolaev, Zhou, and Paquet.

Research Topics:

Hospital Modeling and Analysis for Emergency Operations in Hospitals

This research has concentrated on such things as use of computer simulation models for the real-time estimation of hospital capacity after a disaster. Using historical data, generic hospital models are developed for the estimation of steady-state and dynamic capacity in a disaster situation, e.g., earthquake. A more general outcome of the research is the bridging of the disparity of control-theoretic models and real systems being represented by using discrete-event simulation to capture the system's complex operations. Parameters of the control models are estimated directly from simulation results.

Rapid Prototyping and Nano-Manufacturing

This research applies rapid prototyping techniques in biomedical engineering for the fabrication of artificial tissues, bones, implants, and biomedical devices. In some applications, three-dimensional biomedical models are created from CT scan or MRI data. Physical biomedical objects are then fabricated using rapid prototyping techniques directly from the computer-aided model of a biomedical object. Other applications involve the use of nano-manufacturing technologies to fabricate nano-scale objects, sized less than 100 nm. Computational geometry is used to solve the complex geometric problems associated with the prototyping. Algorithmic study of geometric problems is used to further the development of more advanced CAD/CAM technologies for the medical field.

Work and Communication in Robotic Assisted Surgery

Medical work in the operating room (OR) involves a complex network of interactions between multiple interdisciplinary teams. This complexity increases with the addition of new technologies, such as robot-assisted surgery (RAS), creating the possibility of different forms of errors, affecting workflow and rendering team interactions more challenging. RAS has changed the traditional OR, with equipment occupying more physical space without proportionate increase in room size and surgical personnel located in different positions in the room. Communication among teams is impacted by the location of team members (some at the bedside and some behind the RAS console). Our faculty are collaborating with physicians at Roswell Park Cancer Institute to study and improve workflow, layout, and inter-team communication in RAS in order to improve cogntive and physical workload of surgical team members, reduce operative time, improve surgical outcomes, and minimize the chance of surgical error. 

Better Design of Health IT

Faculty and students are studying the effects of and better design of health information technology in a number of contexts. Projects have included studies of physician nurse communication in emergency medicine in order to develop shared situation displays; assessing the impact on health data exchange and interoperability on workflow in primary and specialty care practices; developing methods to insure robust implementation of safety critical health IT systems; and cognitive engineering design and analysis (through field study and simulator based laboratory studies) of electronic patient tracking systems being implemented in hospital emergency departments to understand their usability and impact on work practice and situation awareness.

Modeling of Wheeled Mobility Device Users

This research has developed the largest database of functional abilities and body dimensions of wheelchair users in existence. The work includes the use of new anthropometric methods that record 3-dimensional coordinates of body dimensions, the collection of functional and structural anthropometric data, and development of design tools including 3-D human models for use by rehabilitation engineers, architects and standards makers.

Injury Risk Reduction to Promote Health

Research projects have focused on how to reduce the biomechanical risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders during various tasks such as lifting, office workstation tasks and manufacturing tasks via the use of engineering controls in order to promote health in working adults. Research has applied bioinstrumentation and biomechanical modeling/analysis methods to understand the injury mechanism to develop efficient control methods. Other studies have involved the use of statistical methods to inform the appropriate sampling strategies when observational or video-based ergonomics job analyses are conducted.