March 8, 2011

Cornell Professors, Students, Help Medical Transport Provider to Improve

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The Canadian organization Orng, will modify its medical transport system in the coming weeks after working with a team of masters students in the Cornell School of Operations Research and Information Engineering.

Ornge, a non-profit organization based in Ontario, Canada, provides medical transport services to the residents of the province in both emergency and non-emergency situations. The work of the Cornell students will help Ornge reduce cost and improve its transport system.

Overseeing a  group of ORIE graduate students, Prof. Shane Henderson, operations research, and Prof. David Shmoys, operations research, have been working together to help Ornge since 2007.

Henderson said Ornge’s services are crucial to Ontario because of the province’s large size. The distance between Toronto, the province’s capital, and the outer regions of the province are comparable to the distance between Toronto and Florida, Henderson said.

Cornell’s work with Ornge was divided into multiple projects. In the first project, which began in September 2007, the Cornell graduate students and professors worked to improve Ornge’s helicopter fleet by improving helicopter response times and increasing information on where to base the helicopters.

In the second project, which began in 2008, graduate students improved Ornge’s system for transferring patients by perfecting schedules for Ornge’s airplanes.

Tim Carnes Ph.D. ’10, a member of the Cornell team, said the Cornell researchers started their project with an assessment of Ornge’s daily problems. The researchers then worked to develop tools to solve those problems, Carnes said.

Russell MacDonald, Ornge’s medical director for research and development, contacted Henderson about working with Cornell ORIE graduate students. MacDonald said he hoped Cornell would help research ways to improve the everyday operations of the company.

According to MacDonald, Ornge did not have any initial cost-saving goals at the start of its collaboration with Cornell. As a non-profit organization, any money that Ornge saves goes back into the company to help improve access and provide service to more people.

“We knew there was room for improvement and an opportunity to optimize,” MacDonald said.

Ornge will not know to what extent the new system will improve efficiency until it is launched later this spring. Test runs, however, indicate the company will improve efficiency in its scheduled patient transfers by between eight and 15 percent, which translates to significant savings for the company, MacDonald said.

Ornge is currently training its staff to use the new application.

Original Author: Jesella Zambrano