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Concordia PhD candidate is developing a way to improve hospital care in Canada

Zahra Yousefli's research identifies more cost-effective and efficient maintenance management scenarios
June 12, 2019
Zahra Yousefli: “Inefficient resource allocation often drives up maintenance expenditures.”
Concordia graduate researcher Zahra Yousefli: “Inefficient resource allocation often drives up maintenance expenditures.”

When it comes to Canada’s health dollars, hospitals continue to claim the largest piece of the pie.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information recently confirmed that hospital spending accounts for 28.3 per cent of the country’s health spending, or close to $2,000 per person.

Concordia’s Zahra Yousefli wants to make sure those funds go to good use. Under the supervision of Osama Moselhi and Fuzhan Nasiri, professors at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, the fourth-year PhD candidate is developing a new approach to facilities maintenance management in hospitals that could lead to greater patient satisfaction.

Prior to her time at Concordia, Yousefli earned master’s degrees in architecture from the Islamic Azad University and construction project management at the University of Tehran, both in Iran. She also spent more than 10 years working as an architect.

The aim is to minimize delays and maximize efficiency

How does this specific image (above) relate to your research at Concordia?

Zahra Yousefli: There are about 1,500 hospitals in Canada and the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is one of the largest in the country. Because health care facilities are open 24/7 and attend to many patients, hospital maintenance is a complex function. Canada and Quebec must seek out innovative ways to manage maintenance in health care facilities without compromising their performance.

Inefficient resource allocation often drives up maintenance expenditures in areas such as labour, materials and parts. Traditionally, a centralized maintenance management approach allocates these resources and schedules activities based on historical records.

This method ignores the impact of unexpected failures in building components, especially in situations that involve new technologies with no maintenance records. This approach also fails to account for unforeseen overloads caused by increases in the number of patients and visitors.

As a result, hospitals end up with maintenance delays and an accumulation of defects that will eventually undermine their performance and quality of service.

What is the hoped-for result of your project?

ZY: Using a multi-method simulation approach, I plan to develop a decision support system for facility managers in hospitals. This approach enables health care facilities to integrate segmented information at different levels of maintenance management — from daily operations to tactical and strategic decisions. The aim is to minimize maintenance delays and maximize resource efficiency.

Through my project, I hope to identify maintenance management scenarios that are cost effective and improve scheduling for a case study hospital in Montreal.

What impact could you see it having on people’s lives?

ZY: Traditional benchmarks — such as the number of beds per hospital or the number of patients per bed — no longer reflect the quality of service patients, staff and visitors receive in today’s congested health care facilities. Instead, efficient and effective maintenance practices directly affect day-to-day operations in hospital settings.

The multi-method simulation approach could have a direct impact on improving patient satisfaction with their hospital experience. This could also lead to widespread, long-term benefits that influence the well-being of society at large.

What are some of the major challenges you face in your research?

ZY: Access to accurate and reliable information is challenging. Most maintenance management data in hospitals is still paper-based and sometimes poorly documented.

Getting financial data — such as information on bids — is also a challenge due to confidentiality issues. Research in this domain requires more concerted efforts between universities and the health care sector.

What first inspired you to study this subject?

ZY: When I started my PhD studies in building engineering at Concordia, I took Fundamentals of Facility Management (BLDG 6631), taught by Fuzhan Nasiri. Thanks to this course and my extensive literature review, I developed an understanding of how to identify gaps in different issues of facility maintenance management.

Afterward, I focused primarily on facility management in hospitals. I recognized that hospitals suffer from widespread maintenance issues that impact the health of society and patient satisfaction.

I have since reached out to facility managers of several hospitals to improve my understanding of their major issues and adopted solutions.

What advice would you give STEM students who want to get involved in this line of research?

ZY: Facilities maintenance management in hospitals and health care facilities is an understudied research field. Through a range of courses offered at Concordia, students who are interested in facilities management could make significant contributions in this area, regardless of their background.

What do you like best about being at Concordia?

ZY: Concordia has world-class faculty members in construction and infrastructure management. I really appreciate the support of my supervisors, who are leaders in their research domains.

I also want to acknowledge the research labs that I have been associated with, including the Sustainable Energy and Infrastructure Systems Engineering Lab and the Construction Automation Lab, as well as the help and advice I receive from their members.

Are there any partners, agencies or other funding/support attached to your research?

ZY: In addition to a Concordia University Bursary from the Graduate Student Support Program and graduate bursaries from my supervisors, I have received financial research support through a Guy Bourassa Graduate Scholarship in Building Engineering and a Pierre Arbour Foundation Scholarship.

Learn more about
Concordia’s Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering.



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