Students to present engineering management project at U.K. global health care conference

Two chemical and biomolecular engineering seniors, Doug Woodcock and Brett Taylor, are flying to England this month to attend an international health care conference and present the results of an engineering management project they completed last spring.

Their project was to analyze the positive impact of a new method for screening for drug resistant staph bacteria before surgery called Tem-PCR developed by Diatherix Laboratories in Huntsville, Ala. and the Kettering Medical Center in Ohio.

The two students will be presenting the results of their project at the 8th International Healthcare Infection Society and Federation of Infection Societies Annual Conference in Liverpool Nov. 19-21 and Diatherix is picking up their travel expenses.

In February, Kettering issued a news release stating that it saved $3.7 million in the past year by changing from traditional testing methods to Tem-PCR. According to the news release, this “positive financial impact” was directly tied to reducing patient infection rates, decreasing the days patients need to be kept in isolation and prescribing fewer antibiotics.

Doug Woodcock (left) and Brett Taylor, chemical and biomolecular engineering seniors, in the Diatherix lab in Huntsville, Ala.

The analysis was a course project for the Business System Design course taught by John Bers, associate professor of the practice in engineering management. Woodcock and Taylor worked directly with Diatherix CEO Dennis Grimaud, a biotechnology industry veteran and formerly the head of the Tennessee Biotechnology Association, to develop an “options cost model” that aids hospitals in understanding the costs and outcomes of three scenarios: not screening, conventional bacterial culture swab screening and Tem-PCR.

The students also converted their analysis into an iPhone app. “The iPhone app allows for hospitals to estimate their expected additional cost due to infection by selecting a screening method and inputting their cost variables,” Woodcock said.

During the spring 2012 semester the students met regularly with Grimaud and Stanley Lu, Diatherix’s chief information officer, and with Carol Quinter from Kettering Health Network.

“The opportunity to work directly with the Diatherix management team – Dennis Grimaud and Stanley Lu – and Dr. Carol Quinter at Kettering Health Network was phenomenal. The passionate support and commitment we received from both organizations allowed us to produce meaningful research,” Taylor said.

The students’ model was assessed based on methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection rates. Most MRSA infections occur in people who have been in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers.

“We performed a Monte Carlo simulation of 1,000 patients in order to model the expected additional cost due to infection and the variability of cost for each of the three scenarios,” Taylor said. A Monte Carlo simulation is a problem solving technique used to approximate the probability of certain outcomes by running multiple trial runs, called simulations, using random variables.

Their results showed a significantly reduced waiting time for test results with Tem-PCR as well as increased accuracy of the test in patient screenings, which could result in savings related to reduced length of hospital stays and prescribing fewer antibiotics and possible readmission.

“We look forward to meeting with leaders in the global infection prevention field, sharing the positive impacts of evidence-based medicine and discussing the application of statistical modeling for making health care decisions,” Woodcock said. “We hope to gauge the acceptance of using Tem-PCR in screening to improve patient outcomes and reduce overall cost in invasive surgeries.”

The HIS conference takes place every two years and is a major international conference focusing on infection control. It attracts global experts in health care-associated infections as speakers and delegates.