WHAT IS SIMULATION AND IS IT REALLY WORTH IT?

Are you looking to:

  • Make cost effective decisions in healthcare?
  • Gain ownership of a complex process and communicate this to others?
  • Understand the impact of changes in a risk free environment?

…then simulation could be your solution.


The NHS is under increasing pressure to deal with rising demand with no immediate increase in funding.  To meet this challenge commissioners, service leads and NHS suppliers need to show how services, products and processes can be improved to provide better value for money.  Advanced statistical analytical tools such as demand forecasting, STAR efficiency frontiers, sophisticated data analysis, simulation and modelling are increasingly being used to do this.  How can simulation and modelling be used to improve healthcare services?

What is the difference between a model and a simulation?

Models are physical or digital products that represent systems. They are similar to, but usually simpler, than the systems they represent, but retain the same key features of the real system. Good models must balance reality with simplicity, whilst remaining easy to manipulate.  


Simulation is the process of studying the behaviour and performance of a model when its variables are changed.  Simulation allows models to be optimised by making comparisons between different scenarios which could not easily be done in a real life system.  There are a variety of different simulation techniques but we use discrete event simulation because it allows the study of a number of individual events that occur over a period of time.  Simulation gives visibility of a process with quantitative output.


How can discrete event simulation be applied to healthcare?

A patient’s journey through the NHS, from their first contact to where their treatment ends, is called the patient pathway.  The pathway includes events such as consultation, diagnosis, treatment, medication, disease progression, assessment, and all the resources these events consume, over a period of time.  A model of a patient pathway provides a visual representation of the patient’s journey.  Discrete event simulation takes into account all the resources and constraints involved as well as the way these interact with each other over time.  Using simulation the pathway can be studied in much more detail.
Why use discrete event simulation and not Cohort Patient Modelling?
Cohort patient models estimate the outcome for a group of patients without explicitly considering the outcomes for each individual.  They treat patients as sets of homogenous groups and view them in terms of “states” - healthy, ill or dead!  They are difficult to adapt and hard to communicate.


What are the benefits of simulating patient pathways?

Make the right choices: Simulation lets you test every aspect of a proposed change or addition without committing resources. This is critical, because once decisions have been made, changes can be extremely expensive. 


Explore possibilities in a risk free environment: 
Imitating reality using simulation allows a wide range of scenarios to be tested and the impact on performance indicators, such as activity, staff/resource utilisation levels, clinical and cost outcomes, to be evaluated.  The impact of any changes can be seen in a matter of seconds.


Diagnose problems: 
The entire patient pathway can be very complex, so complex that it’s impossible to consider all the interactions taking place at one time. Simulation allows better understanding of the interactions among the variables and their significance and time to make these improvements.


Improve understanding and build a consensus: 
Simulation shows how a system really operates rather than an individual's predictions about how it might operate.  The results are reliable and are modelled, tested, validated, and visually represented.


Visualize the plan: 
Animation features in simulation software allow patient pathways to be seen as they run, from various angles and levels of magnification, even in 3-D.  This highlights design flaws that appear credible when seen on paper in a 2-D drawing.


Prepare for change: 
Our development process identifies the “what-if” questions and enables us to build models that answer these.  For example, what if demand for service increases by 10 percent? What if we have more patients using product X as opposed to conventional treatment? etc.


Gain ownership:  
The whole team can see the importance of their role and the impact of their work as part of the whole process.  Greater ownership can improve results.


Wise Investment: 
The typical cost of a simulation study is less than 1% of the total amount expended on the implementation of a service design. Since the cost of a change to a service after installation is so great, simulation is a wise investment.


Simulation yields results providing an in depth understanding of a process, identifying where and when improvements should be made, optimising the use of resources.  Our approach to modelling and simulation is developed to facilitate service planning and decision making and speed up the pace of change in your patient pathway.  Helping you to be more efficient, allowing you to be more effective.

To find out more about our simulations contact us on  SpiritAccess.Enquiries@spirit-healthcare.co.uk

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