How simulation is used in healthcare

Designing Efficient Healthcare Facilities and Processes

Good design reduces long-term operating costs, increases patient and staff satisfaction, and improves clinical safety and outcomes.

Simulation enables you to think about how people use facilities, where equipment should be placed, maximize patient flow and test alternatives to create effective spaces.

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How does simulation help when designing healthcare spaces and processes?

Hospital planners, architects and designers are quickly discovering that simulation is the missing link between excellent design and successful implementation.

Simulation allows you to design a space that is exactly what you need for your processes and patient volumes using organization-specific information.

Designing spaces and layouts for healthcare is an exceptionally difficult task. There are many complexities that need to be considered, including patient-specific factors, a highly structured regulatory environment, and continually evolving clinical practice patterns.

Using simulation, you can create a digital representation of the proposed environment or process, so you can truly see what's happening to the patient and staff flows from a bird's eye view. In turn, this enables you to gain a deeper understanding of how each component will directly (and indirectly) affect another.

"Simulation has helped us to create a shared visual understanding of processes for all parties.

We can show executive leadership and architects how the process runs and how we can vet it to make sure that everybody’s on the same page and it matches our real-world and what we’re seeing."

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

What are the benefits of simulation for hospital design and planning?

Benefit 1

Understand the limits of spaces and processes

Whether you are designing a brand new space or redeveloping an old one, you need to know how much your space can really handle. This is particularly true if you face seasonality (such as flu season), need to prepare for surges in demand (such as disaster planning), or anticipate continued organizational growth.

Simulation is the only way to test these scenarios before they happen, and in any of these situations, understanding the true “breaking point” for your space, processes, and staff is critically important.

Benefit 2

View the impact on the whole system

Throughout the design and implementation process, you want to see how the proposed design affects not only space, but also staff and equipment needs, anticipated processes, and expected operating costs.

These interdependencies are too complex to model in traditional spreadsheets or even using Lean and Six Sigma. Simulation allows you to see the big picture and understand any downstream effects before a single dollar is spent on construction.

Benefit 3

Test every idea to find the best solution

During the design (and especially the redesign) process, there are many ideas about ways to update, improve, and modify the proposed layout. It is nearly impossible to tell which ideas will work, and which will only increase costs or will prove ineffective.

As a result, many good ideas get missed because there is simply no way to know for sure what impacts they would have. However, this issue can be resolved by using simulation. Once a “base model” is built, it allows you to quickly look at every idea in a zero-cost environment. By doing so, you get the best possible design and incorporate a key tenant of lean – getting input from everyone.

Could you improve facility design and processes with simulation?

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

SSM Health
Planning and design case study

SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital used simulation to assess the use of an interventional platform concept, as part of its $550 million renewal project.

"Before we used simulation, it made people really nervous to say, ‘Are we building PACUs and pre- and post-op areas correctly?’ - but once we showed the work groups the results of the simulations and how we came to these, our physicians and staff felt more comfortable.

It was a great process for us to go through and it really made a huge difference in our own confidence about how we were sizing the space and where we were putting our beds, resources, etc."

View the case study

Learn more about using simulation for planning efficient healthcare processes


Simulation for Design

Learn how using simulation allows you to find the best possible layout for your situation.

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Using simulation to design new spaces and processes

Discover how simulation can be used to design new spaces and processes, not just improve the status quo.

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Case study

Ensuring the feasibility of a $31 million OR expansion

Learn how simulation was used to identify and resolve costly bottlenecks ahead of construction.

View the case study

Further resources

Simulation - Cornerstone for Design

Learn how simulation has been used to help Geisinger Health System optimize a hospital pneumatic tube system.

Introducing an on-demand patient meal service

Discover how simulation enabled Geisinger to strike the balance between patient satisfaction and staff efficiency when implementing an innovative new service.

Improving patient flow and waiting times in emergency departments

Learn why simulation has been a vital tool for optimizing ED throughput at Johns Hopkins Health System for more than 10 years

See SIMUL8 in action

View videos of SIMUL8 and learn about the benefits of simulation.

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