As baby boomers age, hospital administrators are making moves toward strategic planning in preparation for the surge of new patients. One way they are doing this is through virtual modeling.The program, referred to as Discrete-Event Simulation, allows users to simulate strategies and operational changes using analytical data within a 3-D virtual environment. This type of modeling enables hospital administrators to project large scale implications of improvements while weighing options against strategic initiatives campus wide.

Discrete-Event Simulation Snapshot

Discrete-Event Simulation Snapshot

No Playstation, Nintendo or Xbox necessary. This kind of simulation program is built directly from the designer’s computer.Using Simio Simulation Software, we teamed with HDR Architecture to identify areas for operational improvements within the new Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center specific to the facility’s proposed surgical suites.

The planning and design team sought to:

  • Maintain/increase patient safety
  • Increase operating room utilization
  • Decrease patient travel distances
  • Decrease surgeon travel distances

Using real-life arrival times, staffing models, resource utilization, durations and travel distances, Brandy Olson, director of operational design at HDR, built the virtual world specific to our unique operational model.

The team used the mock-up to simulate how changes would affect the current environment and created additional simulations to analyze growth projections and future scenarios.

“The act of creating the simulation was even more important than the final analysis,” Olson says. “This kind of operational procedure modification forced the surgical department to look at things differently and consider options that were not thought possible before.”

The team identified four key metrics from which they based the findings: patient safety, room utilization, patient experience and surgeon productivity. Multiple data were entered into the program and the simulator tested 56 plausible ways to best meet the four objectives.

Move one room and you positively affect surgeon productivity, reverse room configuration and you negatively impact patient experience. Like a Tetris puzzle, each play builds from the move before.

“The exercise allowed our team to identify opportunities for improvement and offered stakeholders peace of mind when it came to making the hard decisions. We aren’t just going with our gut feeling. Real data is driving this process,” says Jen Bartholomew, manager of Facilities Planning.

Using traditional facility programming methods, the group was unable to reach consensus about including surgical suites in the new Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. But after compiling and analyzing the data through Discrete-Event Simulation, team members felt comfortable moving forward with the results.

The exercise, which considered where and how to provide services based on volumes and types of cases, determined that in order to best meet operational efficiency goals, surgery needed to have a home in the new Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Animating data in an effort to make sound, long-term plans not only impacts the new cancer center, it guides the strategic direction of the campus as a whole.

In a changing and competitive health care environment, analyzing the needs of the population, anticipating the future direction of services and making data-driven decisions positions The Nebraska Medical Center ahead of the curve.

By testing concepts in this virtual world, designers and hospital administrators are developing better practices by playing out scenarios prior to real-world application.

So, next time you feel compelled to tell your children to turn off the video games, remember, they may be honing critical skills that could someday change the face of hospital operations and improve the way in which people access health care.