Simul8 and Cranfield University secure funding from Innovate UK 

Simulation software provider Simul8 has been awarded funding for a joint project with Cranfield University to optimise hospital operations at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.   

The four-month initiative will use simulation to look at improving patient flow management, resource allocation and workflow optimisation. The research team will develop and test an advanced optimisation tool that uses real-world data collected from the waiting rooms at Bedfordshire Hospitals by healthcare data specialist DASHmed. By experimenting via simulation, they hope to identify existing bottlenecks faced by hospital staff in managing patient journeys and find ways to improve the patient experience through enhanced process efficiency. If successful, it offers the longer-term possibility of implementing a simulation-powered digital twin capable of optimising the management of patient flow in real-time, which would provide even greater levels of efficiency. 

The project will be funded by the Innovate UK Accelerated Knowledge Transfer (AKT) Scheme, a programme where business partners can collaborate with academic institutions to accelerate innovation in projects designed to make a meaningful impact on society. 

Director of Services and Strategic Partnerships at Simul8, Tom Stephenson, who will be providing the simulation expertise, said: “There are so many ways in which simulation is already helping to improve healthcare systems, so we are delighted that Innovate UK approved our proposal for this exciting project. We begin by feeding real world data into simulations to unlock greater efficiencies, and then our simulation-powered digital twins can take the Trust to the next level of advanced healthcare management.”  

“The partnership offers a chance to combine our simulation technology capabilities with Cranfield University’s data analytics expertise as we seek out ways to improve the patient experience in Bedfordshire hospitals. We aim to leave them with an optimisation tool that can be put into operational, everyday use for long term gains.” 

Dr Jim Gray, clinical director of orthopaedics and founder of DASHmed, added: “We believe that unlocking the flow metrics and simulating patient flow holds the power to understand constraints and could create more harmony in the patient journey.” 

Simul8 regularly partners with NHS Trusts and Health Boards to develop simulations to improve everything from planning the layouts of new ward designs to oncology patient scheduling, maternity modelling, lab processes in IVF clinics and patient pathways in orthopaedics. The Glasgow-based technology company even assisted numerous emergency departments around the world when managing surges in demand through the covid pandemic. 

Cranfield University also has a track record in working in partnership with business, academia, governments and other organisations to develop and deliver applied research and innovative education in science, technology, engineering, and management. 

Dr Maryam Farsi, Lecturer and Assistant Professor in engineering optimisation at Cranfield University, will be supervising the project. She said: “I’m looking forward to working with the team to unlock powerful data insights and simulation capability on operational management within the hospital settings. We’ll be using advanced simulation techniques to learn and predict activities and ‘what if’ scenarios. This will help us to uncover improved ways to manage patient flow efficiently through the system.” 

The simulation project will run until the summer and help to reduce patient waiting times as well as aid the most effective utilisation of hospital resources. 

Dr Farsi finished: “It’s great to be able to apply our expertise to a challenge where local communities are going to be the ultimate beneficiaries.”         

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