OR in healthcare is the theme of April’s INFORMS blog challenge and so this week FiO gives an overview of a number of OR applications in healthcare management. We provide a summary of the OR projects we have delivered in the last couple of years and also give a synopsis of current analytics and modelling challenges facing the NHS in such a fast changing environment.

Operational Research and the UK National Health Service were both born in the 1940’s. Since then OR has been widely and successfully used in healthcare, not just in the UK but worldwide. In an industry where continual change and reforms put great emphasis on defining and measuring the impact of complex combinations of services and outcomes, the strong systems modelling and analytical capabilities that OR brings are essential to support good decision making. OR in Health where are we going?

The Capgemini OR team has developed numerous models to inform decision making within the NHS. Three examples include:

  • Award winning stroke modelling
    World Class Commissioning award for the design and implementation of the new stroke service for Greater Manchester. Simulation modelling was applied to understand the impact of revised patient pathways.
  • Performance and capacity modelling for emergency services
    We developed a flexible tool to calculate capacity requirements and the effect on performance levels. Feature in a previous FiO article: Emergency Services under Severe Weather Conditions
  • Capacity Review and Strategic Development
    OR led the delivery of strategic review, demonstrating how strategy alignment, efficiency savings and quality outcomes could all be delivered in line with the NHS QIPP agenda. This is an excellent demonstration of how OR can be used to deliver higher quality health outcomes more efficiently.

Our approach combines OR modellers with health sector expertise together with Health sector specialists to bring a full clinical understanding.

The current direction of NHS Trusts to become Foundation Trusts requires each Trust to produce a long term financial plan. The challenge for the Trusts is to understand how activity links to both income and expenditure and how this will be impacted when redesigning service delivery. The necessary activity modelling, often carried out by OR experts, is used to support the strategic case for service redesign and for example to feed a long term financial plan template provided by the regulator Monitor.

In the news this week, John Appleby talks about the recent King’s Fund report which shows waiting times going up. “The NHS in England faces a huge challenge over the next four years. In order to keep pace with demand for health care, it must achieve productivity improvements to the value of £20 billion, equating to 4-5 per cent each year to 2015”.  This represents another opportunity for OR to identify where improvements can be made, considering the trends on demand for health services but maintaining acceptable performance levels.