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Operational research in health care: can the 'science of better' do better?

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Monday 11 February 2013, 13:30
LT11, Management School

Dr Christos Vasilakis, Principal Research Fellow
UCL Clinical Operational Research Unit, University College London

Abstract: It is over 60 years since the publication in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society B of what is most likely the first academic paper of an operational research/management science (OR/MS) study in health care (a study of queues and appointment systems in outpatient departments). A lot has happened since then that has influenced the discipline: learned societies were established, new techniques were invented, computing power was increased geometrically to name but a few. Health care has continued to provide OR/MS academics and practitioners with fertile ground for applications and countless challenging problems. What, however, has the impact of OR/MS been on health care?

Other disciplines such as biostatistics, health economics and epidemiology have developed new methods that are feeding into a growing body of evidence with a direct impact on many aspects of how health care is delivered, e.g., evidence-based medicine or economic evaluations of health programmes. Yet the use of evidence to organise health and social care services, an area where  OR/MS should be capable of adding value, is less well-established. Can the self-styled ‘science of better’ provide the scientific methods required for a step change in the way health and social care services are organised?

In this talk I will briefly discuss the evolution of modelling studies in health care and argue that OR/MS has a crucial role to play especially within the current health care context. Some challenges and opportunities will be highlighted before presenting an overview of a small number of relevant projects and some lessons learnt from them.

Bio: Dr Christos Vasilakis is Principal Research Fellow with the UCL Clinical Operational Research Unit (CORU) in London. He has over fifteen years of experience as a researcher in health systems in the UK and in Canada where he was a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research fellow at the University of British Columbia. Prior to his academic career he spent four years as an IT consultant. His main research interests lie in conducting modelling & simulation studies for evaluating the likely impact of changes before implementation and in developing and putting in place practical methods to assist those delivering and managing health care. Current and recent projects include the development of a modelling toolkit to assist in the reorganisation of mental health services in England, the monitoring of surgical site infections and a range of simulation studies in cardiac surgical care and hospital pharmacy dispensaries among others.

In 2005 he was named Outstanding Research Trainee by the Vancouver Coast Health Research Institute and in 2006 he won an award from the Strategic Promotion of Ageing Research Capacity initiative (EPSRC/BBSRC) in the UK. His work has appeared in the British Journal of Cancer, Implementation Science, Journal of Hospital Infection, Journal of the Operational Research Society and others. He recently co-edited two special issues in Health Care Management Science and the IMA Journal in Management Mathematics respectively and is a member of the editorial boards of the new OR Society journal Health Systems and Springer’s Flexible Services and Manufacturing. Dr Vasilakis is co-chair of the forthcoming IMA Health 2013 conference in London ( and on the Programme Committee of the EURO-INFORMS Conference this summer in Rome (

For more information on his and UCL his unit’s work see


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