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Glasgow tech firm proposes ‘digital twin’ to help eliminate NHS backlog

Glasgow tech firm proposes ‘digital twin’ to help eliminate NHS backlog

Simul8’s technology is focused on reducing hospital bottlenecks. Photo: Paul Nicholas UK/Shutterstock.com

A Glasgow tech company has proposed “digital twin” technology as a potential solution to help eliminate delays in the NHS.

Simul8, which specialises in real-world simulation technology, is working with NHS boards in Scotland and trusts south of the border to improve patient flow in hospitals and reduce bottlenecks.

She has worked on process optimization initiatives ranging from patient scheduling in oncology units to patient flow through fertility departments, modeling maternity services and optimizing trauma and orthopedic wards.

The company is now championing a much wider rollout of its core technology to support faster and deeper integration with the NHS at scale, helping to reduce record waiting times.

Laura Reid, CEO of Simul8, said: “Our healthcare system is under extreme pressure, with millions of people waiting for life-saving treatments. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to solve the backlog of cases, but we must use every option available to improve the situation.

“Technology has a critical role to play in the future of healthcare in the UK. Our software is already making a difference and we are incredibly proud of that, but we want to do more. Simulation-powered digital twins remove bottlenecks and improve efficiency, which is exactly what the system needs.”

The company, which also has bases in the US and Canada, hopes to work with the new Labour government – ​​encouraging the use of more AI and automation to eliminate repetitive manual tasks or improve data-driven decision-making.

Waiting lists reached an all-time high in September 2023, when around 7.8 million people were waiting for hospital treatment. According to the latest figures from NHS England, this number had fallen to 7.5 million people waiting by March 2024, but 43% of these people had been on a list for more than 18 weeks.

Simul8 says simulation-powered digital twins offer a new approach to decision-making. They live alongside real-world systems and provide a testing ground for decision-making. Hundreds of simulations can be tried and tested each day to find the best course of action cost-effectively.

In an environment like a hospital, where situations can change at any time, this technology is essential for deciding where resources should be allocated to ensure the system does not become overloaded and struggle to meet capacity.

Its digital twins have already been deployed to redesign a patient booking system for a cancer care unit. The technology has helped the unit save £15,000 per month and reduced patient waiting times by more than 50 per cent, as well as improving nursing staff experiences.

It is also helping to streamline processes for IVF treatment and cardiovascular surgery at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. The trust uses the software to analyse staffing levels, the number of procedures in each process and the equipment and people needed to complete them in the desired timeframe. It enables senior leaders to plan resources effectively, leading to improved service quality and better patient outcomes.

In Scotland, the company has worked with NHS Scotland, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Fife.

Reid said: “Healthcare is a topic close to my heart. It’s where I started my career and to think that our technology is helping to solve some of the problems the system faces fills me with pride. The beauty of what we offer is that it removes risk. Making changes in simulation doesn’t impact real life or have any financial implications. It’s a test environment, allowing stakeholders to determine how best to improve processes that can be transferred to the real environment and benefit patients.”