The Healthcare industry plays a vital role in the lives of millions of people generating substantial portion of Gross Domestic Products (GDP), according to the National Healthcare Expenditures in 2020 grew 9.7% to $4.1 trillion in 2020, or $12,530 per person, and accounted for 19.7% of GDP. Despite a large amount of money spent on healthcare, the United States has few advantages over countries that spend less. A report from the National Academy of Medicine estimates that from 30% to over 50% of healthcare spending is considered wasteful. Covid-19 added an additional operational burden on the care providers forcing them to redesign the physical environment for healthcare facilities, to change the operating model with new policies, and to accelerate technology advancements, often burning out the workforce.
Healthcare providers carry most of the healthcare costs, and the degree of efficiency with which the service is orchestrated defines the profitability of the provider. The complexity of tasks grows along with the number of cases mixed with the complexity of the clinical operations, the demand curve of a healthcare provider, and many other factors affecting caregivers' experience and, therefore, also the patients’.
Patient journeys are non-linear and dynamic; every case is unique to some extent, medical personnel involved in a cure have different specializations, and they often rotate. The care process execution is scattered among dozens of systems and there are several of them: the order system, electronic medical record system, radiology system, emergency department system, beds system, lab system, pharmacy system, staffing system; the list may go on. The functionally oriented systems help to optimize the performance of a specific step of a patient journey; however, they often hinder the ability to see and manage the end-to-end flows of many patients.
Healthcare providers need to balance sometimes conflicting priorities of general flow optimization for efficiency metrics (utilization, finance, etc.) with the individual patient journeys optimized for the quality of service and cure efficiency. It is barely possible to manually manage such a conflict; however, today’s technologies, such as digital twin, can make it happen.
A digital twin is a simulation model connected to the real data sources of multiple systems. Such a model can reflect the actual state of the assets as well as the aggregate view of a process along with individual flows of patients, and thus can spot inefficiencies, suggest improvements, and predict future performance. An operations digital twin is the digital twin focused exclusively on end-to-end processes; in the case of healthcare providers, we are talking about patient and caregivers journeys. So, let’s take a look at what an operations digital twin can do for healthcare providers.
On the strategic level, digital twin can help
- Optimize the structure of clinical operations in order to minimize various types of waste: excess administrative overhead, duplication of services, mistakes, unnecessary wait time and delays, unnecessary procedures, and professionals working on the lower level of their expertise. These are low-hanging fruits of performance improvement that are routinely omitted since every step is perfectly optimized for the local performance, yet nobody sees the end-to-end picture and impact of systematic issues on the aggregate level. Check out one of the case studies we did with small healthcare providers suggesting patient journey changes after scenario simulation, yielding better financial performance. https://vsoptima.com/operations-digital-twin-use-cases/
- Optimize the staffing plan for your case distribution and demand curve. Every healthcare provider is unique in its market focus and services combination, attracting a specific segment of patients. The type of patients’ issues and their distribution in time/seasons define what services are required as well as at what capacity and time they are needed, and that is a key for the staffing plan. What number of people with what skills does a provider need to serve their customers? Often there is some seasonal fluctuation that might require some flexible capacity, or maybe the provider is expanding so that demand will grow, therefore the staffing plan should be aligned with the growth speed. Given the patients’ and caregivers’ journeys, the operating digital twin can easily simulate many various scenarios so that a care provider can make an informed decision on the staffing plan and automatically update staffing plan if necessary.
- Find the optimal floor layout configuration to minimize the lead time for the patient care delivery and caregivers’ experience. This problem is also driven by the demand for distribution and services required to meet the demand. The way the floor layout or, in general, facility is structured defines the speed of care, utilization of assets, patient satisfaction, and employee experience. With operations, digital twin healthcare providers can explore various layouts and see how they perform among various performance dimensions in order to select the optimal one.
On the tactical level, it helps
- Optimize the daily procedures schedule across multiple services to make the patient journey shorter, more convenient, and more efficient. Sometimes it is essential to prioritize procedures for those patients with acute situations or those about to withdraw from the clinic in order to avoid unnecessary stay prolongation. So, the schedule of all procedures of a particular day is dynamic and should be updated not only from the utilization or local performance standpoint but rather for the patient journey and real-time dynamic situation with patients. It is hard to do so without seeing the holistic picture of all patients' journeys and managing them automatically.
- Reveal the processes’ and system constraints that might be temporary or seasonal in nature and hard to see behind the day-to-day routine. With the digital twin, it has become possible. Moreover, health practice operations managers can explore various scenarios of resource redistribution and find the optimal one to ensure they have enough capacity to handle the situation.
These are apparent use-case of for healthcare providers, and the sky is the limit since the digital twin enables innovations, unfolding the dynamic nature of the patient journey, showing the constraints and inefficiencies, and providing an environment for experimentation that is safe and cheap.
- National Health Expenditure Data - NHE Fact Sheet
- Bentley, Tanya GK, et al. "Waste in the US health care system: a conceptual framework." The Milbank Quarterly 86.4 (2008): 629-659.
- Jopling, Jeffrey K., Clifford C. Sheckter, and Brent C. James. "To cut is to cure: the surgeon's role in improving value." Annals of Surgery 267.5 (2018): 817-819.
- Davis, Bayli, Brittany K. Bankhead-Kendall, and Ryan P. Dumas. "A review of COVID-19’s impact on modern medical systems from a health organization management perspective." Health and Technology (2022): 1-10.