Surgeon performing operation

Researchers show how the NHS can improve patient flow & cut wait times

As part of a cross-continental research study, researchers have found that parallel processing can bring significant benefits to theatre idle times and patient waiting times.

In this instance, parallel processing is when clinicians prepare a patient for surgery at the same time as preparing the operating theatre for surgery.

The concept of parallel processing in healthcare isn’t necessarily a new one, as it is already in, albeit limited, use in the UK – however, the complexity of coordination to successfully undertake parallel processing can be restrictive.

To put parallel processing to the test, a research team from TED and Bilkent Universities in Turkey and the University of Bath, used computer modelling to assess how effectively and efficiently the approach reduced waiting times and cut running time costs.

After conducting the trial in Urology clinics in Turkey, the researchers’ hypothesis elicited an average of a 40% improvement in theatre idle times and patient waiting times.

The University of Bath’s School of Management’s Dr Melih Celik, said: “Scheduling theatre time is a very complex process, particularly given the level of uncertainty around the length of surgical procedures. What our work shows is that we can take complicated mathematical models, and turn them into simple, automated procedures which can be used by hospitals to improve their current systems.”

The University of Bath acknowledge that with all the various pressures the NHS is under, it may be difficult to pursue this research at the moment, but nevertheless hopes the study “provides an interesting area of exploration” for healthcare managers in the meantime. The research team is now aiming to set up pilot schemes in a range of health settings across Turkey.

Dr Celik added: “The research clearly shows a benefit to patients in increasing operating theatre availability by reducing the time the space is idle. The benefits are both in terms of freeing up space for more procedures and also for improving patient flow between induction and surgery. For staff it can help to ease the burden of working under considerable strain.”

The research has been published in the journal Omega.

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