Maths to the rescue

By
Friday, 08 July, 2005


A team of mathematicians at CSIRO is developing a system that can predict the likelihood of hospital emergency departments having to go on bypass and turn away ambulances carrying critically ill workers.

The human and financial cost of emergency department bypass is a pressing issue for all state governments.

"Our aim is to deliver improved health outcomes and reduced health system costs by helping to prevent bypass," explained CSIRO mathematician David Sier.

Typically, bypass occurs at a hospital either when all the cubicles in the emergency department are full or when all the clinicians on duty are fully occupied, or both.

"The system we are developing predicts the likelihood of bypass occurring in the near future by forecasting patient arrival rates and comparing the expected staffing needs with current workload and staff levels. It enables the hospital to manage its workload more efficiently by providing forewarning of high demand for emergency services," he said. "Broadly speaking, there are two parts to the system, modelling how the emergency department looks right now and then forecasting the demand in the next, say, one to eight hours."

The system is designed to run on a hospital intranet and leave clinical staff free to treat patients. It extracts patient arrival data from hospital admissions and emergency department databases. CSIRO scientists are also developing a range of other decision support tools for use in non-clinical aspects of health system management. These tools will help use of resources such as hospital beds, pathology laboratories, medical equipment and healthcare professionals. These tools will also be able to perform tasks such as determining optimal patient transfers between acute and sub-acute wards to relieve pressure on emergency departments, and optimising resource use across different medical programs.

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