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What Are We Doing to Fight Ebola and Other Disease Outbreaks? Not Enough! Says the International Council on Systems Engineering

by INCOSE UMS | Oct 08, 2014

International Council on Systems Engineering Calls for Systems Thinking, Coordination

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 8, 2014) The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) – the world’s leading authority on systems engineering – says a systems approach can help stop massive disease outbreaks, such as Ebola.

The virus has now killed more than 3,400 people. In the first case of Ebola confirmed in the U.S. in Dallas, 100 people were exposed to the patient due to a series of missteps from the airport to the hospital to a contaminated apartment.

“A systems approach would have helped lessen or eliminate many of the issues in this case and the Ebola crisis in general, by ensuring that everyone involved in any part of the system was aware of the other parts of the system and that access to information was made available to everyone,” said INCOSE President David Long. “Engineering a coordinated system is key to ensure there are no missteps, and each patient receives effective care.”

This issue was addressed by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology’s report, presented to President Barack Obama in May. “Better Health Care and Lower Costs: Accelerating Improvement through Systems Engineering” outlined strategies to improve health care, including improved gathering of medical data and giving providers the technical expertise they need for systems approaches.

For example, although there has been much discussion about transitioning medical records to an electronic format and integrating them for synchronized access, the process is often slow and haphazard, and all the electronic systems in place don’t necessarily talk to each other. The Dallas hospital where the Ebola patient landed originally acknowledged that medical records were not fully integrated even though proper protocols for the physicians and nurses were followed separately; the hospital has since retracted the statement.

Dr. Michael Appel, anesthesiologist and Chief Patient Safety Officer for the Northeast Georgia Health System and INCOSE member, said, “Health care professionals know about the importance of integrated medical records and other systems engineering practices, but we’re not doing enough about it.”

About the International Council on Systems Engineering

The International Council on Systems Engineering, a not-for-profit membership organization, promotes international collaboration in systems engineering practice, education and research. Founded in 1990, INCOSE now has more than 60 chapters and nearly 10,000 members worldwide. 1-858-541-1752;

** Media Interviews on Systems Engineering in Health Care Available:

Michael Appel, M.D.

Anesthesiologist and Chief Patient Safety Officer, Northeast Georgia Health System


Topic: Value of systems engineering to patient safety and health care overall

Gary Smith

EADS Cassidian Systems

European Region Director, INCOSE Healthcare Working Group

Topic: Improved treatment of Ebola with systems engineering, including using angiotensin in the sepsis phase of Ebola

Bohdan “Bo” W. Oppenheim, Ph.D.

Professor of Systems Engineering, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles)

Founder and co-chair of INCOSE Lean Systems Engineering Working Group

Topic: Systems thinking to control Ebola, especially using lean practices


Sandy Young

J. Walcher Communications