Juul Knoben and Puck van Boekel from the Capacity Management Team were part of the winning team in the ‘Best Data Driven’ solution category at Dutch Hacking Health last week. Which case did they work on? And how did they approach this together with their fellow team members from different fields of expertise? In a short interview, they reflect on the hackathon and share their passion for capacity management and their work at ChipSoft.
Congratulations! Have you recovered a little from Dutch Hacking Health yet?
Juul and Puck reply in unison, laughing: "Yes, we have. They were long days, from Thursday evening to late Saturday night, but they were also days which gave us tremendous energy. It is great to work in a team on solutions that matter."
There were plenty of cases to choose from. Which problem did you want to tackle?
Juul: "Many hospitals are faced with the challenge of efficiently scheduling their operating theatres. Many operations are delayed due to earlier operations running late, and in many hospitals, operations are scrapped from the daily calendar as a result. The hackathon’s theme was patient-oriented care, so our main focus was on the patient. Our team’s goal was to ensure that the patient would always have accurate information on when their operation would take place."
Puck: "The physician at the outpatient clinic often gives an indication of when the operation will roughly take place, but this estimate does not always reflect reality. What we wanted was to have the estimated number of weeks appear on both the physician’s and the patient’s portal screen. The planner can also access this information, so when the patient calls, the planner can also give the correct estimate."
How did you approach this?
Juul: "On Thursday night, we introduced ourselves to the other participants who had signed up for this case. Our group consisted of thirteen people, including a nurse and IT staff from UMC Utrecht, a number of data scientists, participants with a strategic management background, and us. The next morning, we worked out a plan together and tried to get everyone on the same page. That was necessary because everyone had their own perspectives on the case."
Puck: "We then worked out what the chances were of an operation being delayed and its consequences for scheduling in the short term. This enabled us to be much more accurate in forecasting when someone was to be operated within a specific timescale. And that, in turn, allows the planner to make more accurate estimates and prevents the scheduling of multiple consecutive surgeries that have a relatively high risk of overrunning their schedule."
Juul: "We took neurosurgery as a case example. We also spoke extensively with a neurosurgeon. Neurosurgeons carry out complex operations that can sometimes take longer than 6 hours, and that tend to be a large source of stress for the patient. If they run into delays during the operation, there is a good chance that the next scheduled operation will be cancelled.
And you naturally want to avoid having patients come to the hospital for nothing. They already experience so much stress around the operation. Having to send them home, in some cases multiple times, only to have to go through the whole waiting process again only adds to that stress."
Puck: "Our solution gives the planner the tools to create a more effective schedule. The schedule is easier to achieve because we are calculating potential delays into the schedule from the beginning, thereby preventing the creation of unattainable schedules. On the other hand, we are providing the patient with correct information on which you can follow through."
Did this case have a lot of common ground with your daily work?
Juul: "Yes, we are both part of the Capacity Management Team, which works on HiX development for capacity management on a strategic, tactical and operational level. Puck works on HiX development at an operational level, and I do so on a strategic level. The questions I look to answer are primarily: "How do you ensure that hospitals have sufficient capacity to meet their production targets as agreed with the health insurance companies? Does that align with the care profile the hospital wants to promote? How are you going to present this information so the patient knows what they have to do? What are the choices and options?' I develop computational models to calculate that capacity and then meet with hospitals to tailor my work to their wishes and needs."
Puck: “My work involves improving operating theatre scheduling in hospitals. The hackathon case was a perfect match for my line of work. I am also passionate about this subject because by optimising operating theatre schedules, you can really make a big difference. If you can, together with your team, create and implement something that will ensure that a hospital no longer has to send their patients home because of cancelled operations, how wonderful is that?! Let alone being able to do this for many hospitals. ChipSoft is in a position to do so because as a market leader, we can implement this in many hospitals."
Is this drive to constantly improve processes part of your DNA?
Puck: Yes, I believe so. Juul and I both studied technical business management. We have a very process-oriented perspective on healthcare; as far as we’re concerned, processes need to be optimised as much as possible, from A to Z. We’re very critical of that. Not necessarily with regards to efficiency, but particularly from the patient's perspective. They should receive optimal healthcare." Juul: “For us, it’s almost second nature to look at processes as a whole. We are constantly asking ourselves: how can we translate insights into IT solutions that support the current working process of the user? In hospitals, the importance of capacity management is becoming increasingly critical. We are more than happy to support them in that regard."