How simulation is used in healthcare

Improve Emergency Department Performance

Crowding, delays, and diversions in the emergency department can contribute to quality and cost issues across an entire hospital system.

SIMUL8 Professional enables hospitals to improve patient flow, reduce walkouts, optimize resources and minimize costs.

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What are the challenges of improving emergency departments?

Effective management of the emergency department (ED) is a key priority for health systems.

A national survey by the Institute of Medicine showed that 91% of EDs reported crowding as a problem with 40% indicating that it was a daily occurrence.

Healthcare providers recognize that long waits and delays aren’t just an isolated emergency department issue, but can become a hospital-wide problem.

Overcrowding in emergency departments can lead to:

  • Patient diversions to other hospitals
  • Patients being admitted to alternative units or ICUs
  • Patients leaving without treatment
  • Patients with acute illnesses experiencing delays in treatment
  • Excessive staff workloads, potentially leading to medical errors
  • Increased in-hospital mortality rates

Although healthcare providers understand these problems, with so many connected processes and elements involved, it can be difficult to plan and implement ED changes without risk to patient safety and satisfaction.

ED stats

How can simulation help?

Experiment with changes in a digital, risk-free environment.

Research has provided lots of recommended approaches for improving ED throughput, reducing length of stay, mitigating readmissions and improving quality.

But how can you be sure which is the right approach for your department’s circumstances? With operational pressures and payment reform, each hospital is unique and needs planning and ideas specifically tailored to its local environment.

ED management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many factors that can effect performance, including:

  • Patient behavior and health literacy
  • Patient demographics and the prevalence of chronic disease
  • Access to urgent and primary care
  • Practice and referral patterns of primary care providers
  • Utilization of social services and infrastructure
  • Clinical care protocols for acute conditions such as stroke, heart failure, and fractures
  • Available hospital beds and utilization
  • Mental health services in the local area

With many internal and external factors, as well as associated costs to consider, hospitals need the ability to test ideas in a safe environment.

This is why healthcare organizations rely on simulation to plan, test and implement ED improvements.

"We don’t want to go in to the ED and just make trial and error changes that could affect patient satisfaction and even safety if we’re not doing it in a thoughtful way."

Todd S. Roberts, System Director of Operations Improvement, Memorial Health System

“You can say, ‘What happens if I increase my person load coming to the ED by 20%?'. You can plug that into SIMUL8 and ask what that would do to the resources, or what the efficiency would of our staff would be.”

Raul Medina, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Lead Process Improvement Coordinator, Vidant Health

Why use simulation for emergency department improvements?

Benefit 1

Predict and manage demand surges and constraints

Utilize existing data sources and predictive analysis to accurately identify or forecast capacity constraints and surges in demand.

As simulation mirrors real processes in a visual way, you’ll easily see where queues and waiting times are happening – days, months or even years into the future.

Benefit 2

Test process changes in a safe, digital environment

Conduct powerful ‘what-if’ analysis to understand the impact of any changes in processes, resources, patient volumes and capacity on emergency department performance.

Simulation allows you to thoroughly test changes, without risk to patients and existing processes.

Benefit 3

Make cost-effective, evidence-based decisions

Compare improvement scenarios across waiting times, throughput, costs, and other important measures.

This allows decisions to go beyond opinions and expert recommendations, and instead be based on evidence and quantifiable results for your hospital’s own circumstances.

Experiencing emergency department or patient flow challenges?

Talk to us about your challenges, ask our healthcare simulation expert questions and explore SIMUL8 Professional’s features in a confidential demonstration.

Johns Hopkins
Emergency department case study

Johns Hopkins reduced average wait times for ED psychology services from 61 to 16 minutes at its Howard County Hospital.

“With ongoing cost reductions and other restrictions within the healthcare environment, clearly our resources are getting to be very precious and scarce, so we need to use tools like SIMUL8 to make sure we are getting the highest performance we can out of the most reasonable amount of resources.”

View the case study

Learn more about simulation for improving emergency departments


Simulation in Clinical Operations

How can you identify the issues that are causing ED delays, and the solutions will have the biggest impact?

Learn how simulation can highlight system limitations, and identify the changes you can make to prevent you reaching the ‘tipping point’.

Download the ebook


Testing Emergency Department Improvements with Simulation

How can you solve the challenge of minimizing patient walkouts with rising demand for services?

Discover how Vidant Duplin Hospital used simulation to maintain a left without treatment rate of under 2%.

Watch the webinar

Further resources

Emergency department throughput: Using DES as an effective tool for decision making

With an increase in patient demand and limited resources and capacity, the need to manage ED throughput has never been greater. Eric Hamrock (Johns Hopkins Health System) presents some of the lessons learned through more than a decade of simulation projects at three JHHS Emergency Departments.

SIMTEGR8: Simulation to evaluate great care

In this series of webinars we hear about the fascinating collaboration between Leicestershire County, SIMUL8 Corporation, Loughborough University and Healthwatch Leicestershire and their challenge to reduce emergency hospital admissions.

30% reduction in wait times using DMAIC

Memorial Health successfully reduced the wait time for a CT scan by 30%, which has reduced length of stay, avoided a capital expenditure cost, and improved throughput in their Level I Trauma Center.

Using Simulation to Manage Unscheduled Care

Dr. Paul Schmidt explores how simulation is being used to model a new operational strategy for unscheduled care at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

Diagnostic management strategies for adults and children with minor head injury

A systematic review and an economic evaluation of Diagnostic management strategies for adults and children with minor head injuries in the UK Health System.

Avoiding design errors in the NHS24 contact center

Simulation was used to identify and manage potential periods that could result in future under performance for the NHS's emergency contact center.

Modeling the critical care pathway for cardiothoracic surgery

Simulation was used at the Golden Jubliee National Hospital's heart and lung center to assess if an enhanced schedule would improve waiting times and cancellations, or if more radical changes, such as capacity or other resource reallocations should be considered instead.

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