The challenge: Emergency wards are overcrowded

Emergency departments are increasingly overcrowded and can struggle to respond to day-to-day arrivals in a timely manner.

Most hospitals would currently have difficulty meeting the four-hour National Emergency Access Target set by the Australian Government in its 2012 MyHospitals report.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that emergency patient volumes are unpredictable, we have found that the number of admissions per day can be predicted with remarkable accuracy.

Our response: Developing tools to predict hospital demands

Hospital patient admission prediction tool: Dr James Lind describes how this tool helps hospitals manage patient load.

Show transcript

We have developed new software tools to accurately forecast demand and help ensure access to emergency care and a hospital bed.

These tools use a hospital’s historical data to provide an accurate prediction of the expected patient load, their medical urgency and specialty, and how many will be admitted and discharged.

We are investigating how they can be used to help an entire hospital run more smoothly and efficiently, from reducing ‘bed block’ in emergency departments to minimising waiting time for elective surgery.

The first technology is called the Patient Admission and Prediction Tool (PAPT) and was developed at our Australian eHealth Research Centre in partnership with Queensland Health, Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology.

We are extending PAPT to predict diseases such as influenza and the hospital admissions of patients with chronic diseases.

Demand Prediction Analysis Tool is our second prediction technology and an adaptation of PAPT. It is being trialled in Victoria for the first time through the Victorian Government Technology Innovation Fund.

The results: Improving health outcomes

The tools have been shown to have a 90 per cent accuracy rate in forecasting bed demand. If the entire country was to adopt prediction tools like this, a huge $23 million in annual savings could be made across Australia.

PAPT is being used by more than 30 Queensland hospitals to assist with:

  • bed management
  • staff resourcing
  • scheduling of elective surgery.

For patients the system has delivered improved health outcomes such as:

  • timely delivery of emergency care
  • improved quality of care
  • less time spent in hospital.

PAPT also received the 2012 CeBIT Business Award for Innovation.