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Optimizing Operation Operations

Dealing with skepticism from doctors was one of the more difficult parts of my project. With a little bit of work, though, I was able to show the doctors how simulation could accurately reflect the processes in their surgical suites.

Their hospital was in the process of moving to a new building, and the doctors were trying to design their new setup to reduce patient wait time. I found that traditional methods of system modeling weren’t able to meaningfully model the surgical center’s system.

Obviously, when I’m asked to improve a system, my first step is to identify exactly what areas need improvement, and how those areas can best be improved. I do this by creating a model of the system in question, which allows me to visualize how the system works. Unfortunately, my usual mapping methods can’t accurately reflect complicated or variable systems. But with simulation software I have much more powerful tools to map those systems.

When I began to evaluate the operations of the hospital’s surgical center, I ran into a few difficulties. First off, the process times were variable, as different patients and medical procedures required different amounts of prep time, recovery time, and cleaning time. Not only that, but each set of rooms could only accommodate a single patient at a time, meaning that cleaning services had to wait until a patient was finished. Finally, all the rooms used the same cleaning resources, meaning that if several rooms finished at the same time, they would have to wait to be cleaned one by one.Optimizing Operation Operations

The map of the model was simple enough for me to create. There were really only six steps involved in moving a patient from pre-op to exit. The difficulty comes from the fact that the time of each step changes, and that each step waits on previous steps.

Now, I can’t just use averages and create a flowchart. My flow chart simply isn’t sufficient to accurately model the behavior of the real system in the hospital. Instead, I took easily available information and created a simulation of the hospital’s processes. I got the information from examples on the vendor’s website, things like patient arrivals; distributions for pre-op, surgery, post-op, and room cleaning times.

Once I had entered the data, the software allowed me to define patient waiting times as my target. ProcessModel’s simulation software then ran the hospital’s processes, optimizing them to effectively reduce the hospital’s wait time. I was even able to run the simulation slowly, so that I could ensure the simulation was accurate.

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