American medicine leads the world in most fields of clinical research, training and practice, said a 2008 report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering, but nearly 100,000 Americans nevertheless die each year because of “broken healthcare processes.”

The systems-engineering tools that have transformed telecommunications, transportation and manufacturing have not been applied to the delivery of healthcare, said the report. As a result, “best practice” procedures are often ignored, and hundreds of billions of dollars are lost each year to system failures, unnecessary repetition, poor communication and other inefficiencies.

To bring a systems perspective to healthcare, Lehigh’s department of industrial and systems engineering is working with the Mayo Clinic and other leading healthcare providers to develop a 30-credit professional master’s of engineering degree program in Healthcare Systems Engineering.

The proposed new program will equip students with fundamental skills in industrial and systems engineering along with a solid foundation in healthcare delivery systems and processes. Graduates will be prepared to assume leadership roles aimed at streamlining processes and improving the quality and efficiency of healthcare systems.

Students in the program will take these core courses: Introduction to Healthcare Systems, Quality and Process Improvement in Healthcare, Financial Management in Healthcare, and Information Technology in Healthcare. They will complete foundation courses in industrial and systems engineering along with a capstone project working in industry with healthcare partners.

The program will seek students from a variety of engineering backgrounds, offer flexibility in elective courses, and allow students to tailor programs to their particular interests.