Creating impact with operations research in health: making room for practice in academia

Health Care Manag Sci. 2016 Dec;19(4):305-312. doi: 10.1007/s10729-015-9328-0. Epub 2015 May 24.


Operations research (OR)-based analyses have the potential to improve decision making for many important, real-world health care problems. However, junior scholars often avoid working on practical applications in health because promotion and tenure processes tend to value theoretical studies more highly than applied studies. This paper discusses the author's experiences in using OR to inform and influence decisions in health and provides a blueprint for junior researchers who wish to find success by taking a similar path. This involves selecting good problems to study, forming productive collaborations with domain experts, developing appropriate models, identifying the most salient results from an analysis, and effectively disseminating findings to decision makers. The paper then suggests how journals, funding agencies, and senior academics can encourage such work by taking a broader and more informed view of the potential role and contributions of OR to solving health care problems. Making room in academia for the application of OR in health follows in the tradition begun by the founders of operations research: to work on important real-world problems where operations research can contribute to better decision making.

Keywords: Applications; Health care; Operations research.

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Decision Making*
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Services Administration*
  • Health Services Research / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Operations Research*
  • Research Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Universities