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  • By John Beadsmoore
  • In Blog
  • Posted 10/06/2015

John Beadsmoore from Lanner looks at the role of simulation in future healthcare design

Across the world, healthcare provision is subject to a complex tug-of-war, with increasing demand, driven by a growing and ageing population on one side, and rising costs on the other. With healthcare spending set to reach $9.3 trillion by 2018, balancing quality care with cost efficiencies is more important than ever before.

The healthcare environment is complex and can be extremely emotive due to its very nature. When you take into account the dynamics involved in the design of new, or renovated, healthcare facilities, you can see why it’s often challenging to make objective decisions and reach the consensus that’s needed to move the project forward. It’s vital that healthcare planners get it right first time, as there is neither the time nor the money to try again if at first you don’t succeed.

Simulation can provide precise, qualitative results with which to make financial, operational, logistical and planning decisions. By crafting a detailed comprehensive model, hospital leadership and strategic planners can cycle through an unlimited number of ‘what if’ scenarios until the optimal balance between operational and design needs is achieved. By using a model, subjectivity is removed, enabling the project team to progress with fact-based decisions, as well as increasing the transparency of the decision-making process.

When US-based BJC Healthcare worked on a project to transform the Washington University Medical Centre site, for the full case study click here, it used Lanner’s WITNESS software to pave the way for robust, informed decisions at every stage. One of the first and most successful programmes the project team tackled with Lanner was the Women and Infants programme at one of the hospital’s key sites. The clinical team initially felt that the highly unpredictable nature of labour and delivery impeded process design. However, when analysing the processes further using WITNESS, clear patterns and trends emerged, informing the basis for planning the new expansion.

For example, one of the main aims of the project was to increase the number of private rooms available to the Women and Infants programme. The facility initially housed 59 beds across 30 rooms. After working with Lanner’s team of consultants and feeding an exhaustive number of questions into the simulation model, the results provided hugely valuable insight from which to inform next steps. In highlighted that 34 private rooms would accommodate the annual 4,000 deliveries for 99% of the time. For the remaining 1%, these could be transferred to the postnatal unit. So, WITNESS enabled the project team to reduce the total number of beds while improving the care and overall patient experience by merely increasing the number of private rooms by four – a great result for all concerned.

In a climate of ever-decreasing budgets and ever-increasing demands to improve the patient experience, using simulation enables healthcare planners to safely explore the impact of change, with a high degree of certainty that change is being implemented in the best possible way. Simulation software could well be the crystal ball that healthcare planners have been looking for…

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