Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is collaborating with software provider Simul8 and Cranfield University on a four-month pilot which is using simulation with the aim of improving patient flow management.

The project, taking place in the trauma and orthopaedics clinic at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, started in April 2024 and will run until August 2024, funded by the Innovate UK Accelerated Knowledge Transfer scheme.

Researchers at Cranfield University and Simul8 are using historic data from Bedfordshire Hospitals, collected via the queue management tool DASHclinic app, to simulate a typical day at the hospital.

The DASHclinic app, which has been used at Bedfordshire Hospitals since 2022, collects metrics on timings such as when patients attend appointments, how long medical procedures take, and how long patients wait for an x-ray.

This information is being used for the predictive modelling of future clinics, so that the researchers can develop and test a new optimisation tool to identify any bottlenecks in the system and enhance process efficiency.

Mr Jim Gray, clinical director, trauma and orthopaedics at Bedfordshire Hospitals and creator of DASHclinic, told Digital Health News: “The data can show us average times, average waiting times, and what days are problematic.

“We’ve taken that data and effectively given it to Simul8 and Cranfield, so that it will essentially show us where the bottlenecks are in the clinic.

He added “I think that the future of clinics is with data metrics and AI being able to become the smart future scheduler to enable us to put more patients through clinic using less staff and helping to reduce lengthy waiting lists”.

If the pilot is successful, Gray said there could be the potential to implement a simulation-powered digital twin, which would allow Bedfordshire Hospitals to optimise its management of patients in real-time, further unlocking efficiencies.

“I hope the data extract might come up with a theory, get closer to a hypothesis that we can be on a journey to create a smart scheduler,” Gray said.

Tom Stephenson, director of strategic partnerships, healthcare at Simul8 wrote for Digital Health in March 2024 about how simulation could help solve the NHS elective care backlog.