Background

For more than a decade, GE Healthcare has been a global leader in the innovative use of simulation modeling to enable informed future planning. GE’s proprietary Hospital of the Future™ (HoF) simulation suite is an industrial-grade discrete event simulation model developed in collaboration with the data scientists in GE’s Global Research Centre. The HoF™ simulation engine was designed specifically for use in healthcare to focus on the problems and scenarios that differentiate this industry from others in which simulation is used. Properly modeling the healthcare ecosystem, patient and staff behavior, variation in demand and supply, and other unique challenges to the required level of specificity necessitated a new and more powerful tool than the more common options available. The HoF suite has been leveraged to inform new hospital design, support budget planning, scope and prioritize performance improvement programs, assess capacity, guide service planning across merging hospitals, and much more.

The HoF tool was born out of a need to better understand the impact of local changes to the global enterprise, recognizing that the complexity and interdependencies in the healthcare space made simple Excel-based analyses insufficient. Since its development and deployment, the HoF simulation suite has been used with health systems around the world to help healthcare leaders plan, predict, and understand the impact of “what-if” scenarios. 

This “digital twin” creates a safe, virtual environment to test changes such as volume growth, process improvements, physical or clinical pathway changes, staffing adjustments, and changes in capacity. This capability has allowed GE to understand the true impact of interventions before implementing them, offering an opportunity to test potential changes in a risk-free way and ensure resources are aligned to the work that will have the greatest impact.

Building, Running and Validating Models

Each HoF model is unique, built to the level of complexity required to answer the high-impact questions being asked. Depending on complexity, we classify our models into two types:

  • Macro model: Macro models are capacity-focused models, simulating the flow of patients through a fixed set of resources. These models are relatively quick to build and are highly effective for future capacity planning, understanding the impact of capacity or pathway changes, and testing a variety of demand scenarios. A macro model typically would not include staff or task-level detail.
  • Micro model: Micro models pull in more granular detail about the workings of the hospital such as staff and tasks, allowing for more insights on when these “micro” factors create bottlenecks.  Requiring more detailed inputs means that micro modeling is more time and resource intensive, and require much more data from our clients. These models are best for services dependent on staff availability such as Operating Rooms, Emergency Departments and Imaging.

A model can be built manually in cases where historic data is unavailable (ex: new hospital construction), or it can be built and trained on historic patient-level data.  Regardless of the complexity or the approach, significant ongoing dialog between GE and their clients is required throughout the process to ensure a thorough understanding of operations, patient behaviors, anomalies, discrepancies, and other important considerations. Models are not built in isolation, and data is never assumed to tell the full story of the operation.

Using HoF for New Hospital Design

GE has significant experience leveraging the HoF simulation suite to help our clients design new physical spaces. With high quality input data, a HoF model can be an invaluable tool for studying the impact of design decisions that are often difficult or impossible to evaluate otherwise:

  • How many beds will I need in order to hit the desired level of waiting time?
  • What is the impact of including some semi-private rooms versus entirely private rooms?

The key to building an effective model for new hospital design is getting accurate input data to represent the system. It is important to know (or to be able to adequately assume) the numbers and types of patients that will utilize the hospital, how those patients will flow, how long they will stay, how the wards will manage discharge, and so on. In some cases, data from similar hospitals can be used to form a starting point for the new hospital model. In other instances, it is necessary to manually collect information and assumptions from a long list of stakeholders throughout the organization.

Why Simulation?

There are a number of significant advantages to using simulation modeling as a tool for future planning. While simulation may not always be the right tool for the job, we believe there are many opportunities in which its sophistication, efficiency and ability to answer difficult questions deliver real benefit over traditional, more rudimentary approaches.

  • Risk-Free Environment
  • Save Money and Time
  • Visualization
  • Insight into Dynamics
  • Increased Accuracy
  • Handle Uncertainty

Want to know more about how we can help with Hospital of the Future? Contact Us