Modelling patient flows in healthcare

Recent years have seen an increased emphasis on managing patient flows and on ensuring that patients follow appropriate treatment pathways.

This is evident in the UK government’s waiting time targets for hospital care and in developments such as the Map of Medicine that offer evidence-based treatment pathways. This emphasis affects providers of healthcare (e.g. hospitals and GPs) and also the commissioners (e.g. Primary Care Trusts), who have service level contracts with providers.

Recently completed work at Lancaster includes the EPSRC-funded DGHPSim project in which we worked with several NHS Trusts and successfully developed a stochastic simulation model that captures hospital activity in enough detail to see the effect of different policies on performance as measured by patient waiting times. The simulation model, known as the DGHPSim suite (District General Hospital Performance Simulator) is generic and is configured to simulate particular, individual hospitals by taking data from the hospital's Patient Administration System and linking these with data from the UK's national Health Episode Statistics. In this way, the need for special data collection is minimised.

The DGHPSim suite can be used to investigate different performance measures and targets and shows their side effects, such as cancelled admissions and the number of emergency patients diverted at times of high demand. The approach taken in DGHPSim was to develop a simplified discrete event simulation to model patient journeys from GP referral through to discharge. The DGHPSim models provide a framework within which further simulation modelling and analytical work can be conducted to develop models that are of use to commissioners, regulators and providers.

Candidates should have knowledge of computer simulation and statistical methods and be willing to engage with clinicians and healthcare managers.

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