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Lancaster University applies event simulation to optimise patient flow efficiency

Adept Scientific : 23 July, 2008  (Application Story)
Lancaster University has developed discrete event simulation models using Micro Saint Sharp from Adept Scientific to provide health service managers with the tools to increase efficiency and reduce costs around patient flows.
Health Service performance and efficiency and its ability to meet patients’ preferences often comes under scrutiny. Consequently measuring and studying the effects of policy changes on the patient experience is of critical importance.

Simulating patients entering and moving through hospitals, District General Hospital Performance Simulation (DGHPSim) is a suite of models covering outpatients, in-patients and those accessing emergency care. The models can be used to select and refine policies to meet targets, including the 18-week RTT target that requires NHS trusts to ensure patients wait no longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment. 'Smart thinking' is encouraged and supported with outcomes that reduce waiting times whilst avoiding side effects, with 'what if?' tools predicting scenarios based on different actions, rather than causing disruption through experimentation on the floor.

Research assistant Murat Gunal, responsible for much of the work on DGHPSim, used Micro Saint Sharp because of its flexibility and ease of use for programming.

“Inevitably there is a trade-off between the user-friendliness of the software and its suitability to the task,” said Murat, “Micro Saint Sharp has improved continuously since we started using it in 2004.” Murat added that the support from Adept Scientific has been first-rate, allowing him to focus on development rather than potential problems.

Now in version 2.6, Micro Saint Sharp uses intuitive graphical user interface and flow charting in a fast, modular modelling tool that allows accurate, flexible and optimised discrete-event simulation. It has helped Murat to build a set of models that, separately, can track the detailed performance of part of a hospital as patients pass through or, collectively, to investigate the interaction between targets and performance.

DGHPSim has been built out of a research project, funded by EPSRC and using HES (Hospital Episode Statistics) as the main data source, also supported by the databases of local hospitals.

“The capabilities of Micro Saint Sharp have helped me to give DGHPSim a range of functions that would otherwise have proved difficult and time consuming,” concluded Murat.
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