Health Systems Engineering and Innovation Hub

Research Group Members:

Imke de Kock
Research Groups:
Engineering Management
Sustainable Systems
Health Systems Engineering

Sara Grobbelaar
Associate Professor
Research Groups:
Health Systems Engineering
More info: Research interests: think about, research, and develop technology-based industries for Africa. Systems of Innovation, STI policy. Pro-poor value chains. ICTs for development. Social/inclusive innovation.

Louzanne Bam (née Oosthuizen)
Research Groups:
Health Systems Engineering
Systems Modelling, Operations Research, and Decision Support

Worldwide, conventional approaches to the design of healthcare systems are widely acknowledged to be failing. This growing realisation is attributed to the increased pressure that healthcare providers are facing as they attempt to continue to provide quality services while maintaining control over escalating costs and limited resources. These complex issues require qualitative, quantitative and modelling approaches to support the development of evidence-based solutions to address the contemporary questions facing healthcare decision-makers.

Reid et al. (2005) contrasts between the instrumental role that engineering plays in the development of medical technologies and the support of medical research and the very limited application of engineering techniques to the design and management of the healthcare delivery system. They describe the complex nature of healthcare delivery systems (involving interrelated systems of distributed, specialised personnel, multiple information and material flows, specialised care facilities, financial resources, etc.) as well as the similarities between these complexities and those found in other systems where systems thinking and industrial engineering techniques have successfully been applied to improve operations.

Brandeau et al. (2004) group the decisions facing healthcare policy makers and planners into two broad categories: (i) healthcare planning and organising; and (ii) healthcare delivery. Healthcare planning and organising is defined as encompassing high-level decision-making and includes decisions on the economics and structure of healthcare systems while healthcare delivery encompasses lower-level decision-making that is mainly concerned with the management of healthcare operations and with clinical practice.

Health Systems Engineering (HSE) is concerned with the design and planning of health systems as well as the delivery and management of operations through (i) quantitative modelling, forecasting and scenario analysis to support decision making; (ii) analysis to diagnose the root cause of systemic problems in the healthcare delivery process; and (iii) the application of Industrial Engineering skills to solve management and delivery problems in the healthcare sector.

In summary, the vision of statement of the HSE&IH is: Improving access to primary healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa. More information on the research themes at the HSE&IH can be found under the ‘Current & completed research projects’ tab above.


  • Brandeau, M.L., Sainfort, F. and Pierskalle, W.P. (2004). Health care delivery: Current problems and future challenges. In M.L. Brandeau, F. Sainfort and W.P. Pierskalla, eds, Operations Research and Healthcare: A Handbook of Methods and Applications, chap.1, 1-14, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston.
  • Reid, P.P., Compton, W.D., Grossman, J.H. and Fanjian, G. (2005). Building a better delivery system: A new engineering / health care partnership. The National Academies Press, Washington.

The Health Systems Engineering & Innovation Hub (HSE&IH) conducts research on the application of engineering principles to improve healthcare service delivery in sub-Saharan Africa. Five research themes are defined:

Theme 1 – Supply and distribution: How can we improve the effectiveness and efficiency of supply chains and distribution networks to get the necessary resources, medicines and treatments to healthcare facilities and people?

1.Improving the global MDR-TB medication supply chain

2.Accurate vaccine demand prediction for pandemic diseases

3.Investigating the integration of public and private health care value chains in South Africa

Theme 2 – Infrastructure and delivery network design: How can we ensure that the right kind of infrastructure and delivery network design is put in place? How can we ensure that this is sustainable?

1.An investigation into the normalisation of resource efficiency measures in healthcare facilities

2.Development of a roadmap defining the opportunities that exist for the application of wearable mHealth technologies to improve healthcare outcomes in SSA for prioritised

Theme 3 – Operations: How can we improve healthcare delivery operations to increase effectiveness and efficiency with the ultimate goal of improved utilisation of finite resources to improve access?

1.Pathology specimen logistics

2.Obstetric emergency response vehicle routing

3.Investigating the feasibility of crisis-discharge decision-support to reduce readmission rates at a psychiatric ward.

Theme 4 – Technology transfer and innovation: How can we develop and utilise innovations and adopt technologies to reduce costs of, facilitate and improve access to primary healthcare?

1.A framework for technology transfer of human health technologies: An infrastructure perspective

2.The role of innovation platforms to facilitate the integration of technology in healthcare value chains

Theme 5 – Healthcare policy and finance: How can we consider the design of government policies and support mechanisms to improve access to primary healthcare in Southern Africa?

1.Understanding the critical success factors for universal healthcare coverage

2.New healthcare facility impact evaluation

3.Investigating the mechanisms that influence the healthcare outcomes in Sub-Saharan African countries

The HSE&IH has active collaborative relationships with various universities, as well as a variety of stakeholders in the healthcare provision sector.

Ph.D. Theses:

  1. Van Dyk, L. (2013). The development of a telemedicine service maturity model. Supervisor: Schutte, C.S.L. PhD thesis. University of Stellenbosch.

Masters Theses:

  1. Oosthuizen, L. (2015). A location science model for the placement of POC CD4 testing devices as part of South Africa’s public healthcare diagnostic service delivery model. Supervisor: Bekker, J.F. MEng thesis. University of Stellenbosch.
  2. Hartmann, A. (2014). An assessment of telemedicine services within the Western Cape public health care system. Supervisor: van Dyk, L.; Co-supervisor: Schutte, C.S.L. MEng thesis. University of Stellenbosch.
  3. Triegaardt, M. (2013). Picture archiving and communication systems in the South African public healthcare environment : a suitable structure and guidelines to assist implementation and optimisation. Supervisor: van Dyk, L. MScEng thesis. University of Stellenbosch.
  4. Snyders, F.J. (2013). Determining the feasibility of using mobile phones to strengthen the information management of preventative health care in South Africa. Supervisor: van Dyk, L. MEng thesis. University of Stellenbosch.
  5. Daffue, R.A., (2013). Applying patient-admission predictive algorithms in the South African healthcare system. Supervisor: Lane-Visser, T. E. MScEng thesis. University of Stellenbosch.
  6. Van Zyl, A. (2012). An information system to support telemedicine projects in South Africa. Supervisor: van Dyk, L. MScEng thesis. University of Stellenbosch.
  7. Treurnicht, M.J. (2012). A decision support system for telemedicine needs assessments in South Africa. Supervisor: van Dyk, L. MScEng thesis. University of Stellenbosch.

Journal publications:

  1. Van Dyk, L. and Schutte, C.S.L. (2012). Development of a maturity model for telemedicine. In: South African Journal of Industrial Engineering 23(2), pp. 61-72.

Conference proceedings:

  1. Van Zyl, I.; Van Dyk, L. and Lane-Visser, T. E. (2012). Paving the way for the use of prediction modelling in a hospital environment. In: Proceedings of the 2011 ORSSA Annual Conference, pp. 111-123.
  2. Van Zyl, A. J. and Van Dyk, L. (2012). Operations Research in Telemedicine. In: Proceedings of the 2011 ORSSA Annual Conference, pp. 103-110.
  3. Treurnicht, M. J., Lane-Visser, T. E., Van Dyk, L. and Friedrich, S. S. (2012). A nurse rostering algorithm for a district hospital in South Africa. In: Proceedings of the 2011 ORSSA Annual Conference, pp. 93-102.
  4. Van Dyk, L., Wentzel, M.J., Van Limburg, A.H.M., Van Gemert-Pijnen, L. and Schutte, C.S.L. (2012). Business models for sustained eHealth implementation: lessons from two continents. In: CIE42 Proceedings, 16-18 July 2012, Cape Town, South Africa.
  5. Van Dyk, L., Schutte, C. S. L. and Fortuin-Abrahams, J. (2011). A systems engineering approach to telemedicine system implementation in South Africa. In: Conference of the ISEM 2011 Proceedings, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 21 – 23 September 2011.

Conference abstract presentations:

  1. Oosthuizen, L., Benade, J.G. and Bekker, J.F. (2014). HIV diagnostic service delivery in South Africa: Scenario analysis using a multi‐objective version of the uncapacitated fixed charge location model. At: IFORS 2014 Conference, 13-18 July 2014, Barcelona, Spain.
  2. Oosthuizen, L. and Lane-Visser, T. E. (2013). Determining an optimal basis for allocating operating room time under uncertainty. At: 2013 ORSSA Annual Conference, 15-18 September 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

1.GSK Bursary Information


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